Friday, December 27, 2013

Printing Presses and Susceptible Hearts

“Through printing, tender boys and gentle girls, chaste without foul stain, take in whatever mars purity of mind or body; they encourage wantonness, and swallow up the huge gain from it. …

Writing indeed, which brings in gold for us, should be respected and held to be nobler than all goods, unless she has suffered degradation in the brothel of the printing presses. She is a maiden with a pen, a harlot in print. Should you not call her a harlot who makes us excessively amorous? Governed only by avaricious gain, will not that most base woman deserve the name of prostitute, who saps the strength of the young boy by fostering wantonness? This is what the printing presses do: they corrupts susceptible hearts.”

Filippo de Strata, Polemic Against Printing, trans. Shelagh Grier and intro. By Martin Lowry. As quoted here in “ Books Have Their Own Destiny: Essays in Honor of Robert V. Schnucker” edited by Robin Bruce Barnes, Robert Kolb, Paula Presley, Robert V. Schnucker

I suspect this guy’s ok with the spoken and the written word but has a some kind of problem with the printed word. Which is wack – words being words and all. But that’s not what I’m blogging about, which – blogging – would make this guy’s eyes melt. At least this is an ad-free blog so there’s no possibility for avaricious gain for Weeping Sore – at least in writing this blog. Once I’m discovered by a big publishing house thought, all bets are off.

Filippo here seems to think that if a woman is “governed only by avaricious gain” that will foster wantonness. Imagine, if you will, what it would do to any man. Now, while fostering wantonness has long been on my bucket list, I never thought I could get that far down into the bottom of the bucket by merely writing. And don't get me started about "swallowing up the huge gain" from wantonness.

But who wouldn’t be tempted to be wanton, am I right? “Fostering” has this genteel taint of patronizing primitive forms of life - like the little ladies - but in, like, you know, a good way. And it’s a slippery slope from literary wantonness to criminal behavior, like, say pulling off a gentleman’s hat. One man’s wantonness is another man’s assault and battery:

WANTONNESS, crim. law. A licentious act by one man towards the person of another without regard to his rights; as, for example, if a man should attempt to pull off another's hat against his will in order to expose him to ridicule, the offence would be an assault, and if he touched him it would amount to a battery. (q. v.) - A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the UnitedStates. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
Whether wantonness saps the strength of tender boys is a point I do not care to dispute. But Fillipo says its effect on woman is worse. What’s worse? It makes them whores, what else? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Filippo is a dick. Filippo has whores on his brain if he thinks women who write are  “suffering in the brothel” of the printing press; while it's nobel and brings in gold for guys who write. 

I have to admit though he's inspired me. I'm thinking about adding "Maiden with a Pen; Harlot in Ink" to my calling cards. From there it's a mere leap from a roof with an umbrella to pulling off men's hats.

It all comes down to corrupting susceptible hearts. It’s like the sign on the church across the street where Patti lives: "Become the person you would want others to be". At first glance that might sound like sound advice. Upon reflection, it would be the perfect mission statement for a wanton suicide bomber.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Stress and Excuses

“I’ve had a wonderful evening. This wasn’t it.”
Grucho Marx

I don’t manage stress. I pretty much make a hash of trying to remain calm while stress increasingly bosses me around. I could turn to drugs I suppose. But reality is still there, waiting up and sitting in a chair with its arms crossed over its chest when I try to sneak back in after curfew.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, since I’ve had enough experience making excuses about being late: trust being earned and not demanded, as we all know. See, the cigarette smoke smell on my fingers is from holding the pencil used by other bowlers who smoke when we all used the same pencil to mark our bowling scores. Yeah, I was out bowling. I broke 100.

It’s the tiny detail that makes it real. Not too much embellishment, just a touch. I actually did break 100 once too, so it wasn’t so much a lie as it was a distortion of the order of events that really happened. Kinda like Grucho’s lovely evening.

Once, when I was late for work around Xmas, I said I had a flat tire. Lame, right? But no, because it turns out this guy in a Santa Clause costume stopped to change my tire. Who would make up something like that? The person who won’t just phone in a trite excuse, when they can tell an engaging lie, that’s who.

But what is bad is my stress mismanagement. What used to be little stuff has become bigger and I remain copeless in the face of simple things. Like yesterday, I was late for a sewing class which frankly who cares, right? But I was already a bit tense when I left the house. Then, Nana in the car in front of me slows down for several dozen of the 87 stop lights between me and the class while the lights are still bright green light; because, well they will eventually turn yellow; and in due course almost certainly red; and her reactions aren’t what they used to be when she was, say, 80. So better to just stop at the green ones, or at least pause long enough for me to give her substantial and detailed advice about what she might be doing instead of driving ahead of me when I’m late, like, say, knitting tea cozies for her friends at the retirement home. Or bowling with heavy smokers.

The funny part was that I was the first to arrive because everybody else thought the class began at 9:30 not 9:00. The instructor explained the website had the late time although it was really supposed to be 9:00 (which is what the employee on the phone told me). So of course I said, yup, sure, I thought it was 9:30 too, but I’m early because I wanted to have time to enjoy a cup of coffee and chat about making tea cozies.

At least I can still make good excuses. I suppose my still functioning bullshit skill balances out my diminishing skill at coping with stress. Which, when I think about, is a good trade-off because there are stress-management drugs but as far as I know science hasn’t created a medicine that can enhance one’s skill in making up entertaining excuses for being late.

Monday, December 02, 2013

These Are Chrysanthemums, not Peonies

"Flora, always tall, had grown to be very broad too, and short of breath; but that was not much. Flora, whom he had left a lily, had become a peony; but that was not much. Flora, who had seemed enchanting in all she said and thought, was diffuse and silly. That was much. Flora, who had been spoiled and artless long ago, was determined to be spoiled and artless now. That was a fatal blow."
 - Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
Chuck was on to something. As we get older, we shouldn’t be worrying about growing broad, short of breath, or like a blowsy peony – a flower that always tries to hard and wears too much makeup.  In contrast, everybody knows you don’t need to gild a lily. Poor, once enchanting Flora.

As we age and “let ourselves go” we should worry a bit more about becoming silly and diffuse, whatever the hell diffuse means. I think he means we lose focus and concentration. We let our attention span attenuate to the length of time it takes to remember what the Doormouse said. 

I partly concur with Mr. Dickens that the fatal blow, the perfectly avoidable change that age brings which is beyond the pale, is to remain as spoiled as we presumably were when we were young and more like lilies than peonies; when we were more condensed than diffuse. Age can’t afford to remain spoiled. You have to come to terms with the fact that the process of aging is the process of letting go of whatever indulgences you were allowed as a youth.

I part ways with Chuck about artless being a fatal blow. Give me a break. I was clearly artless when I was young. I am even artlesser now. And determined to remain argumentative. But again, I always was; and if you disagree with me on this final point, I will stab you with my eyes.