Every age has its own myths and legends, its tales of heroes and hidden horrors, of villains and their victims, all suited to the age they were told in. And on my shelves, safely bound between hard covers (one or two locked shut) is a broad collection containing thousands of these tales.
This is not hard to do. Folklorists do nothing but collect and then publish, and then the copies sit and molder, mainly unread. Few ever attains a large print run, and of those that do, most are corrupted by public demand. Both the Grimms and Andersen bowed to pressure and revised what they’d published for later editions, softening the sharper edges and draining away some of the blood. Even then, though, it’s quite possible for an ambitious soul to track down the originals, which in turn were, in large part, collected from older tales told and retold over the ages.
The common error here lies not in the collecting or the publishing, but rather the mistaken illusion that these tales once bound will stay that way. For tales are living creatures; they grow in the telling, as they pass from teller to hearer, and every soul they pass through is changed by the experience — some forever, some only for a night and a day.
“Climate change is an existential threat to humanity!”
No matter how many times I read that line, it fails to speak to me. For one thing, the idea it encapsulates is just too big; it’s too short a sentence to properly describe what’s about to happen. Oceans will rise, wildfires will spread, flash floods and mudslides and hurricane seasons more severe than ever before — that’s all intelligible. But adding them together and saying that “Humanity is doomed unless we do something!” just doesn’t mean anything to me. The scope is far too broad and ill-defined for the imagination to easily grasp.
If you’re a native Mainer living in Maine right now, you probably never wondered how your home town got its name. You’re content to live in Passadumkeag or Molunkus knowing they’re from the original native tongues, something your Penobscot neighbor might be able to translate (or maybe not, times being what they are). If you’re the sort who asked questions when you were young, you’ve probably moved away by now; I know, because that was me. Asking too many questions makes folks uncomfortable, I’ve found, so nowadays I do it in a big city where everyone already ignores me anyway.
Trouble is, if you don’t ask, you never learn. And so many fine old tales that ought to have been told over and over have started to die out over the years. This is one I heard when I was very young; not long ago I ran across a variant of it in one of the Histories of Paarfi of Roundwood (as translated by Steven Brust) and bethought myself to track down the original, just to make sure (more…)
The second Hallowe’en under quarantine is approaching, and kids are still stuck uncostumed throughout most of the civilized world. Mischief Night will go mischiefless and All Souls Day will arrive virtually unheralded, all because we don’t want to actually join the celebratees on the Day of the Dead.
…Which, I suppose (regretfully) is reasonable. But I’m still annoyed.
For those of you who care about other things than Hallowe’en, you have my pity. Out of an overabundance, our loyal and hardworking staff has compiled headlines for yet another of our news digests so you don’t have to worry about missing anything important during all the hype surrounding the non-news on CNN. And for those of us mourning our beloved holiday, perhaps this will help serve as a welcome distraction.
A friend and I were discussing some of the finer points of sportsmanship. We disagreed on one point; his view, expressed quite fervently, is that winning is worthless unless you’re a good sport. My point was that, on some occasions, winning is more important, and sometimes it’s all about how you play, but that it entirely depends on circumstances. Upon hearing this, he proceeded to berate me, opining that I’d never teach a beloved child such drivel.
At 2 p.m. today, the NBER will release the monthly Treasury update of debt relative to credit. (Here’s a spoiler: It won’t be anything we didn’t see a month ago. We’re up to our ears in debt.) Meanwhile, Congress is rushing back into emergency session for a quick fix to stave off default as our spending continues to increasingly exceed our income. At a time when every politician is casting blame about the rapidly ballooning national debt and the continual political struggle surrounding raising the debt limit, it’s worth our while to examine the larger picture: Whose fault, really, is the precarious condition of our national finances?
It’s tempting for partisans to each blame the other party; it’s easily done, too, as government waste has become proverbial and inefficiency is automatically assumed without the bother of proving it. It’s equally simple for a certain class of people to throw up their hands and blame all politicians, as though they themselves would do better if they were in charge. But even a little brief reflection will show that, while these are satisfying accusations, they can’t possibly have much merit.
I read the other day that our modern view of Hallowe’en was created using white suburbia as a model, and that it should be dismantled because the act of Trick Or Treating propagates racial oppression. The gentleman who wrote that had earlier mentioned that I was unqualified to opine on matters of race, as I’m one of the oppressors and couldn’t possibly understand the way he could.