Notes from Jim McPherson's seminars

While I'm cleaning out my desk... I took two seminars from Jim: "Humor" and "Mythology." I'm going to stack these things that came out of his mouth as they appear in my notebook, randomly, and see what happens. Half of these came from the weeks and months before and after 9/11.

Replace life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with immortality, freewill, and access to grace.
The universe is always being created by abrupt surprises and jolts from crisis to crisis.
Calamity is permanent.
Antigone symbolizes the remnant of the Mother Goddess. Sitting Bull, white squaw, Eileen Pollack, Gish Jen.
Transcending of tragedy makes for metaphorical meaning.
Novella is like a drop of water holding its shape. A novel loses its form.
Uniqueness of American culture means unique humor. We're all outsiders. If humor fails here, it really fails. The only model for real multiculture.
Old cultures live on cyclical time. No escape from history.
Before the nation-state there were the sect nations. Bin Laden is resurrecting the sect nation.
Corporation state: Writers must either join in or imagine beyond.
Macedonia was more like Cleveland than Greece. But Alexander slept every night with his copy of The Iliad.
Myth is a narrative linked to a rite.
Romantic love will kill the West.
Men and women lived in different camps. To get a wife, cross the river and steal a virgin.
Look for ritual in modern life.
Involuntary Creation, Indian myth of origin. Vishnu, Shiva, Brahman.
Old Testament has a bias toward chaos.
Ritual dance of aggression on Indian-Pakistani border.
Hesiod: First god was chaos, then Gaia.
5 sheaths of human, from outside to inside: Food (body), Breath (air), Mental, Wisdom (genetics), Bliss.
We join the dragon.
Ghandi was a high-class lawyer who worked for a white government. Read his autobiography.
We had no moral code, so we imported the Victorian one.
We worship the cult of the Ideal.
American humor comes from a synthesis of its various vernacular styles.
America has no tragedy. Though African-Americans and Indians do. The Romans also did not develop tragedy. Maybe it's because our roots are in the future -- you can always pull up stakes and move, change everything. We are not fixed.
Vitality in this country stopped in 1976. There was the Patty Hearst hideout massacre, and from then on the white kids never made a peep.
Did you hear about the old lady put off the plane with her knitting needle? Said she was going to knit an afghan.
Lowering the basement floor: "We were so poor..."
Baltimore dope dealers now selling flags.
We laugh when the mechanical meets the organic.
"I happened to stumble across a case of bourbon and went right on stumbling for several days thereafter." -- W.C. Fields
She's so fat, when she wears high heels she strikes oil.
"I bought a used car and my wife's dress was in the back seat. Was in a hotel that was so bad, they stole my towel." -- Rodney Dangerfield
He's a drunk - they found an olive in his urine specimen.
She's so ugly, when she walks in a room the mice jump on chairs.
She's been picked up so many times, she's starting to grow handles.
"Stay out of the Bushes" -- Jesse Jackson. "Same to you, fella." -- George W. Bush
We must develop what Ralph Ellison called the omni-American sensibility.
Affirmative action has become a product. It should be a process.
Laughter is a corrective.
"America never looks back until there's a crisis." -- Constance Roarke
An old man once told me to "play hide-and-go-fuck-yourself."

1 comment:

SER said...

I love Jim McPherson. I hope he always exists.