Posts Tagged ‘superstition’
June 2, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Ginsberg and Whitman have birthdays only three days apart, and it gets even weirder: they’re both American poets. The illustrator Nathan Gelgud has celebrated both of them by drawing “A Supermarket in California”: “I think of an English professor I had as a freshman … He talked about Leaves of Grass, and put so much importance on which version of the book I should read that I thought the actual title was Leaves of Grass Eighteen Fifty-Five … I heard later that the professor was arrested for having gone across the street and chucked corn dogs from the corner gas station at passing cars … Another eccentric who I think about when I think about Whitman is one of the other giants of American poetry—Whitman’s inheritor Allen Ginsberg … Ginsberg wrote ‘A Supermarket in California,’ a story about wandering into a grocery store in Berkeley, California and finding Whitman cruising the aisles, hitting on the grocery boys, and guiding Ginsberg out into the night.”
- Your favorite reality-TV star is really just a Jane Austen heroine. “Her female characters are defined by two primary qualities: their privilege and their powerlessness. Her writing focuses almost entirely on women searching for stability and status, deploying the very limited means available to them. Deprived of intellectual gratification or professional empowerment, they scheme, manipulate, and get bogged down in petty rivalries with each other. Their ultimate endgame is marriage, described by Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice as the ‘pleasantest preservation from want.’ That they do nothing of much more substantive significance (except, some of them, on rare occasions, be kind sisters or daughters) is their flaw, but also, as Austen portrays it, their fate. Isn’t it weird? It’s possible to imagine Austen, reincarnated with her bonnet and penchant for millinery, being moderately overwhelmed by the various cuts and colors of synthetic fabric worn by the contestants on The Bachelor.”
- A 1907 book of American superstitions confirms that we’ve always been a delusional people. And a morbid people, too, as these sample superstitions suggest: “If you kiss a baby’s feet, it will not live to walk on them.” “Never call a baby an angel, or it will die before the year is out.” “If a fire puffs, it is a sure sign of a neighbor’s quarreling.” “Carrying a shovel through the house—bad luck.” “If a white horse strays into your yard, one of the family will die.”
- Ever time-traveled? It’s so much fun, if you’re white. Mik Awake looks at what he calls the “bygone bigotry” that crops up in so many time-travel narratives, including, of course, Back to the Future: “Nothing flaunts white privilege quite like a time-travel story. But in those narratives, the subject of historical racism, if it’s handled at all, is often dealt with in a haphazard or obligatory way alongside other lesser concerns. Our protagonist usually has some specified mission of more pressing personal import, but nevertheless, the movies remind us, in self-defeating winks and nods, about how much progress we have made on the race stuff … Whether it’s Marty McFly in 1950s Hill Valley or Jake Epping in segregated Texas, the entire genre of American time-travel fantasy, with its chaos theory nerdery, butterfly-effect affectations, and desire to reshape the present, is irrevocably linked to the very real idea of white privilege.”
- Enough is enough. Let’s visit a volcano. John Perry went to the Masaya, in Nicaragua: “In December the neck of the chamber got blocked, but a few weeks later rock falls reopened it, exposed a boiling sea of lava. The conquistadors’ entrance to hell is visible once again. In the city, the emergency services regularly practice handling the after-effects of an eruption. Residents view the volcano with suspicion, and don’t trust the reassurances of scientists. Tourists can pay $10 to enter at night-time, peer over the crater’s edge from the adjoining car park and see the incandescent lava a couple of hundred feet below. Holding their noses against the sharp tang of sulfur, they can climb the eroded steps to Bobadilla’s cross for a better view of the hellmouth.”
November 10, 2015 | by Shona Sanzgiri
Visiting the altars for Dia de los Muertos.
Thirty miles from the city of Oaxaca is San Pablo Villa de Mitla, where, according to Mesoamerican lore, the dead go to rest. It’s a small town surrounded by mountains and distinguished by an arid climate, which has preserved relics up to ten thousand years old and attracted archaeologists from all over the world. During the days around Dia de los Muertos, Mitla transforms into a gateway for the deceased lured by the town’s many altars, built by their loved ones, still living here in this world.
The ornate displays are abundant with ofrendas, offerings of food and drink. Pyramids of fruit, bursting marigolds, packs of Marlboros—or Camels or Chesterfields, depending on one’s preference—ripe plantains, candles of all sizes, meticulously decorated loaves of pan de muertos, and clay gourds of mescal and water (even the dead suffer from hangovers) comprise most offerings. Pictures of the deceased, typically unsmiling, feature in the center of the room, encircled by votives and depictions of different Catholic saints and apostates. The room often smells of woodsy black and white copal, an incense made from tree resin. Read More »
March 13, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
Even in its heyday, the Thirteen Club didn’t do much. While the society may have boasted five presidents among its (at any given moment) thirteen members, the fact that it could only meet when the calendar cooperated—the thirteenth—meant that its activities were necessarily somewhat curtailed. In any event, the Thirteen Club’s existence was always more important than its specifics: it had been established as a blow against superstition, friggatriskaidekaphobia, and the prevailing prejudice that’s existed toward Friday the thirteenth since (depending on who you ask) the Last Supper or a certain fateful dinner in Valhalla. The founding friggatriskaidekaphile was one Captain William Fowler. Fowler had attended P.S. 13; he built thirteen structures, fought in thirteen Civil War conflicts, belonged to thirteen clubs, and, whenever possible, did significant things on the thirteenth of any month. In 1882, he decided to make this enthusiasm official. Read More »
January 2, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
My apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is of the standard prewar varietal, with the faint chicken-soup-in-the-stairwell smell familiar to any New Yorker and an elevator that goes up to fourteen. And by fourteen, I mean, of course, thirteen. In this respect it is standard too; the elevator, made by Otis (I paused to double-check as I was writing this), indulges our collective superstition and forces those on the top floor to live a peculiar quotidian fiction.
In taller buildings, of course, everyone above twelve is technically living a lie, albeit of the white sort. This is a bit of magical thinking that never fails to delight me on even the darkest day. Read More »