Friday evening grab-bag

There was some seriously awesome graffiti along the Camino. Peregrinos making fun of themselves and bemoaning their sore feet often feature prominently.

There was some seriously awesome graffiti along the Camino. Peregrinos making fun of themselves and bemoaning their sore feet often feature prominently.

In ancient mythology, mass deaths are used to symbolize disasters. In other countries like Greece and Japan, myths were recounted through the generations, partly to answer unanswerable questions about death and violence. In America, we don’t have that legacy of ancient mythology.

Someone make sure to tell the Inupiaq and the Aleut that their stories don’t count. And nobody tell Snyder about the myths immigrant and colonizing America has created for itself, from tall tales and folklore like John Henry and Paul Bunyan to our mythmaking around people and events like Lincoln, MLK Jr., or founding fathers.

And can someone tell me what the hell he’s on about with mass deaths symbolizing disasters in Greek mythology? A commenter on IO9 suggested flood myths, and my friend Lillian cited “The Iliad,” but  Greek myths are generally concerned with extremely personal disasters: Medea killing her children, Oedipus blinding himself, Pentheus torn to pieces. Massive deaths — say, plague sweeping Thebes — is almost never dwelt on the way Man of Steel apparently dwells on the destruction of Metropolis.

  • EN PUNTAS” will freak you the hell out and you should watch it immediately.

A ballerina, whose pointe shoes are extended by a set of sharp kitchen knives, dances and twirls insistently until reaching exhaustion, fighting to maintain balance on the lid of a grand piano set on a stage.

In a time when speech is subjected to unprecedented scrutiny, it is worth recalling that the safest way to express a subversive thought is to clothe it in unfamiliar garb. We can learn how from another motley cast of characters, including children, rebels, beggars and scribes. Long ago, such outsiders and outlaws twisted the languages that they shared with others, making of them new and unheard things: obscure jargons, which allowed them to communicate safely among themselves.

Obviously a return to 18th century thieves’ cant itself isn’t very feasible, because the NSA has access to this database the same as we do, but I twig to the Captain Sharp’s meaning and a dab gabster could gammon a Robin Redbreast good and proper.

The sun is near its peak when we leave for Whittier, and the drive southeast along the Seward Highway is the kind of beautiful that shuts you up, a kind hand to the back and a murmured shhh. Tidal flats give way to glittering water, and the mountains across the inlet frame the waves like a painted backdrop. This is the Alaska of dreams and tourist brochures. We stop to walk on a gray beach and climb rocks, and a train rattles along the mountains behind us, bringing sightseers from Anchorage back to their cruise ship.

… We’re here to visit a gray monstrosity of a building presently marring the landscape. The Buckner Building was built between 1949 and 1954 to house troops stationed in Whittier in the aftermath of World War II and the rise of conflict in Korea. Pitched as “a city under one roof,” the 525-foot long structure cost six million dollars to build. A 350-seat theater took up most of the basement, and other amenities included a rifle range, bowling alley, barbershop, officer’s club, cafeteria, small hospital and six-cell jail.

To this writer, who hates sharing a building with even one other apartment, the Buckner Building sounds like hell. The thought of rogue soldiers held in cells just below my bedroom, whole months without stepping outside, and the impossibility of avoiding (escaping, I can’t help but think) other people—I don’t find the Buckner’s present state much more hair-raising than its past.

The whole essay is definitely worth a read.

  • Today’s Camino photos.
  • Edited to add: This is a vitally important video.
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