"The artifex verborum of the dream ... was no less adept than the waking Coleridge in the metamorphosis of words." — John Livingston Lowes, The Road to Xanadu. Observations on language (mostly ancient), religion, and culture.
By Edward M. Cook, Ph.D.
what an inactive year for Ralph. This
reflects what an active year it was outside of Ralph. The first half of the year was devoted to
writing lectures and then delivering them – most notably in Cambridge (a
splendid and sumptuous event, for which I am eternally grateful) and in
Jerusalem (ditto). The second half of
the year was less spectacular and more dismaying; I refer to the recent
presidential election, which is the most disturbing one in my lifetime. Some of my Facebook statuses reflect my growing
sense of foreboding:
will be voting for the same person this year for the first time ever.#nevertrump (July 22)
Only Trump could make "Merry
Christmas" sound like a threat.#nevertrump (July 30)
Evangelicals supporting Trump have
permanently lost credibility to speak on public policy or public morality. But
hey, good for Albert Mohler.#nevertrump
I really hope that the white male
middle class, its spurious Herrenvolk aspirations in jeopardy, doesn't elect
the most grotesquely unqualified Presidential candidate ever. (Sept. 26)
Come back, baseball. Don't leave us
to face next week without you. (Nov. 3)
Kitchen dialogue in the a.m.: "I'd like to punch Trump in the face." "Oh, that's a real Christian attitude!" "The heart wants what it wants."
Haven't felt this grieved since 9/11.
And that about says it. On 9/12/01, I felt that the foundations of
society were fragile; now I feel the same way.
Now the Ralphies are more important than ever.
There has been a lot of good music this year – none of, regrettably,
from our newest Nobel Laureate in Literature.
I've heard a lot of great female voices, like Angel Olsen, Mitski, and that gal in Sylvan Esso, and that
other gal in Tennis. But my favorite music came from a bunch of
guys, namely Foals. Can't decide what their best track is, but
I'll go with "Birch
Tree." They're supposed to be awesome live, which I regrettably can't
confirm by experience.
I've read some really good sci-fi this year, with super thumbs-up to
Lavie Tidhar's Central
Station and Ted Chiang's "Story of Your
Life" (about which more below).
Also, I was surprised to find out how good C. S. Forester's Hornblower series
is. The rumor was that the Aubrey-Maturin
series (which I love) was far superior, but this turned out not to be the
case at all. Forester's prose is superb,
the stories are terrific, and Hornblower, in his own way, is as compelling a
character as Jack Aubrey. But my book of
the year award goes to Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville (c'mon, you don't
need a hyperlink for this, do you?).
I've never been ready to read this book before, but this year I was, and
it was enthralling.
was an indifferent consumer of TV this year, with two exceptions. One was the series Law and Order: SVU,
which is in more or less continuous re-runs on a variety of channels. I figured
it was junk, but I watched a few, and found the series as addictive as potato
chips. Pretty good plots, interesting
characters, decent acting (especially Mariska Hargitay). It
ain't Breaking Bad, but it ain't bad.
But the Ralphie has to go to Stranger Things, which I binge-watched
during a free month of Netflix. So much
MOVIES: We saw exactly two in the theater, namely The Secret Life of Pets (it was OK) and Arrival, based on Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" (see above). Arrival takes the prize, just for making a linguist the hero, but a high runner-up is Hail Caesar, which I watched on the plane twice going to and from Israel, then I bought the DVD, which is a rare event indeed. A knee-slapper, for sure, and Ralph Fiennes' scene with Alden Ehrenreich is not to be missed.
Sports was pretty meh this year, with one exception: the Nats' playoff
drive, which fell short. Better luck
next year, guys, but thanks for making the summer and early fall a lot of fun,
and a great distraction from the collapse of the republic.
OK, see you all next year, if there is a next
year. Not that I'm pessimistic or