March 2nd, 2008

Woozy

When the heartaches and nightmares are left in

All right, since no one else is guessing them, I might as well supply the final three answers to my movie guessing game:

7. Nightmare on Elm Street 4
10. Charlotte's Web (the cartoon, not the recent live action one)
15. The Naked Gun

I also have to thank 1womp for the gift, which included a copy of the 2006 Oziana. I'd been meaning to get that issue, but I'd been holding off because shipping charges from the Oz Club are worse if you only order one item. So thank you for that! I've now finished reading it, and I must say it's a pretty good issue. Its subtitle is "The Haunted Issue," and it contains two Ozian horror stories. As the back cover states, it's interesting that the largely utopian nature of Oz leaves room for some horrific ideas. L. Frank Baum eventually paints Oz as a paradise where no one ever dies, but what about situations in which death might be preferable? Not to mention that he'd already introduced carnivorous monsters with the bodies of bears and heads of tigers, man-eating plants that suck the life from their victims, and a desert surrounding the country that turns any living flesh that touches it to dust. It is, perhaps, to the credit of Baum and his successors that they could keep their stories light even while incorporating such elements. It can also be interesting, however, to examine the darker aspects of Oz in a way that's consistent with the original books (unlike, say, Wicked, which used some basic elements of the original Oz in the creation of a totally different place). Daniel Gobble's "The Wailing Witch of Oz" incorporates the Impassable Desert into a ghost story set in a small, xenophobic Gillikin town. March Laumer dealt with the concept that even cast-off body parts never die in Oz (as Baum himself stated in The Tin Woodman of Oz) in the episodes with the Compleat Cook and the Abominable No-Man in The Frogman of Oz, and John Bell works along much the same lines in "The Axman's Arm," which features the disembodied arms of Nick Chopper and Captain Fyter. I'd read a rough draft of this one, and the main thing that I noticed had been changed for the finished version is that there's now an explanation as to how Perusha obtained so many magical appliances for her household. The issue also includes three poems, written by Adrian Korpel, which reinterpret the feelings of Dorothy's three Ozian companions in the first book, suggesting that they all loved Dorothy and secretly hated each other. It's not really how I see things (especially considering how close the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman are in some later books), but they're definitely interesting.
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Polychrome

Heaven is no place for me

I finished reading Dante's Divine Comedy, which was interesting, but kind of difficult to get through. That's not to say that it took long to read (it didn't; the whole thing is pretty short), just that it was sometimes difficult for me to understand what was going on without looking at the headings provided on the version I used. I tried out different translations, but while I found Mandelbaum's much easier to follow than Longfellow's, I still had some trouble with it. Maybe I would have preferred it if it had been written in prose instead of poetry. I don't know. Regardless, it was interesting, and I have to agree with other readers who've said that Dante had a pretty big ego, what with his grouping himself among the great poets of history and placing his political opponents in Hell. There was definitely a local flavor to much of it, which is probably part of why I found it hard to follow, as I'm not particularly well-versed in Italian history of Dante's time. More noteworthy for me were the appearances of heroes and monsters from Greek mythology, of which the author was obviously enamored.

Even in the fourteenth century, Dante apparently still regarded Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven as actual physical places. Satan sits encased in ice in the center of the Earth. Purgatory is a mountain in the Southern Hemisphere, probably on the exact opposite side of the world from Jerusalem. Heaven is made up of spheres in which the planets can be found. It's quite possible that Dante didn't mean for these locations to be taken literally. I actually just read this article, which explains how the writers of the Bible conceived of Heaven and Earth.

What does the Bible actually say about Heaven? Well, according to Ezekiel and Revelation, it's apparently inhabited by cherubim, who have features of humans, lions, and eagles. Ezekiel also mentions a bunch of wheels, and precious stones are a pretty common appearance in descriptions of God's abode. The Heavenly Host hangs around singing songs of praise. I'm not sure where the idea of halos and harps that shows up in cartoons comes from, but it really doesn't seem too out of place. According to Dante, they also form themselves into patterns and letters, like some kind of heavenly air show, or possibly celestial cheerleaders ("Gimme a G! Gimme an O! Gimme a D!").

Matthew 22:30 has Jesus saying that people after the resurrection "neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." That kind of suggests that they don't have sex either, and would that really make for much of a paradise? Actually, Genesis suggests that angels ARE capable of sex, but that their offspring are Nephilim. Anyway, it's certainly a far cry from the seventy-two virgins that suicide bombers think they'll get in Paradise. Some Islamic writings claim that the houri are virgins every time anyone has sex with them. I'm not sure whether that means their hymens rupture every time, but I hope not. Of course, the thing about the virgins is a minority view within Islam, but Muslims seem more likely to make sex a significant part of Paradise.

Anyway, the main theme of Heaven seems to be that there's a lot of singing, and everyone is always happy. But then, can you really have happiness with nothing to compare it to? When I was a kid, I had a dream that my family ended up in Heaven and it was an amusement park, which is more appealing in some ways. But really, I find the whole idea of everyone's personality and memories living on in spirit form. I mean, they'd have to, or it wouldn't really be YOUR afterlife, would it? Some popular conceptions also make the soul recognizable as the person it was in life, and give it somewhat of a corporeal form. Sex with houri wouldn't be enjoyable or a pitchfork to the posterior painful without nerves or some approximation thereof, right? Also, the Heaven and Hell view has it that all of these souls (excluding the ones still inhabiting bodies) are concentrated in two places. At least reincarnation has them reused, which more in line with how nature usually works (not to mention more environmentally friendly {g}). The position of early Christians and some Jews of the same era is that there will eventually be a bodily resurrection, which works better with some of those ideas, but presumably requires that souls would have to be stored somewhere in the meantime. I suppose the flesh will also be restored, unless there's supposed to be a millennial kingdom of skeletons. Which would, admittedly, be pretty cool.
wart

Respect, unlike love, can't be bought

Tonight's Simpsons episode was pretty good. It wasn't amazingly funny, but both stories was well-plotted and had their moments, including a fair number of amusing Skinner lines. The bits with the magnets and Homer laughing about the loaner car policy dragged on a little too long, but eh, no big deal. I did find it odd that Bart identified Nelson as his "other best friend," though. It's not really in line with how their relationship has been portrayed in other episodes.

As for Family Guy, it was interesting to see the Peter/Brian/Lois love triangle come to something (well, not counting the brief time Brian and Lois were married in an earlier episode), but it wasn't that great overall. I did like Peter's appearing in different outfits when he was supposed to be doing things with Lois, and Mr. Herbert watching the kids provided some funny moments.

Okay, I'm fairly sure this will be the last post of mine for a little while. I really need to get a little bit of sleep before leaving. Bye-bye, everybody!