Friday, February 3, 2023

Tales of Classical Perversion: Palestine's Colossus - Rough Draft

 (this story happens in the month following the debate of Hillel and Shammai) 

Herod sails Rhodes to meet with Octavian, the newly coronated Caesar Augustus, ready to supplicate himself to Augustus's feet and, having collaborated with Augustus's Enemy, Anthony, beg for Octavian's clemency to spare the lives of Herod and his court.

As the ship approaches the ruins of Rhodes's famous Colossus, two sailors talk, one Roman the other Judean: 

"When sailors sailed under it, they must have peered up. Did they... ,,, get a view of anything underneath?" "There's no phallus among the ruins if that's what you're implying." "How could there not be?!" "Well it's just not there." "It just seems unlikely to go to all that trouble to scare the bejeesus out of visitors by sailing under a statue a hundred meters tall and not give it a sch.." "..I don't know what to tell you." "Maybe you Romans should... y'know... look harder." "Are you saying the fucking Colossus of Rhodes had a small..." "I'm not saying it was small, though it had to be small enough that somebody could make it disappear without noticing." "You're fucking pazzo." "Look, all I'm saying is that something must have happened, and I bet I know what did even..." "Whatdya' think?" "I think some Jewish bronze merchant a hundred years ago said getta load'a that schvantz, and sold it to a Roman senator." "...Get the fuck outa here!" "I really do!" "You think some Yid had the balls to steal a gigantic bronze phallus from the most watched site in the world?" "I think Rome helped!" "You think the penis of the Colossus of Rhodes is in Rome?!" "I think it's standing straight up on top of the fucking Pantheon is what I think." 

 Only to find when he pulls into the harbor that there are carved statues in the likeness of Herod and Antipater right next to the feet of the old Colossus.

Captain: "What does this mean your majesty?" "It means either that I will be feted as a hero, or I will be killed, my family killed, and all Judea will fall to slavery just as every Roman province does." 

Herod embarks from the ship. His welcome? A dozen naked slave girls, who paint his face red, strip him of his clothes so that they can place purple toga on him, then place a laurel wreath atop his head. Herod is put on a chariot and pulled into a Roman-style triumph through the streets of Rhodes. The charioteer continually calls out 'Hail Herod! Rome's protector in the East! Hail Herod! Vanquisher of the Hasmoneans! Hail Herod! Ensnarer of Cleopatra! Hail Herod! Rebuilder of Jerusalem!" Behind him comes an open caravan showcasing an armory's worth of weapons - the short gladius, the long spatha, the tiny pugio, the enormous hasta, the aerodynamic pilum, the flying plumbata - a hundred of them each at least, and a dozen each at least in all matter of catapult: the onager, the ballista, the scorpio; and a thousand dolabras - the tool which every Roman soldier used for digging, along with a thousand helmets and shields. Then came open chests of gold and silver in currency coin and bullion: Aureus, Quinarius Aureus, Denarius, Quinarius, Sesterius, Dupondius, As, Semis, and Quadrans. Then further chests containing giant jewels of pearl, jade, malachite, amethyst, carnelian, topaz, chalcedony, obsidian, olivine, and  lapis lazulli. Behind the jewels are further statues and paintings and tapestries: of Herod, Antipater, Mairiam, and all the Hasmonean protectors, and of all the prophets of the Bible. 

Six hours later, at the end of the parade, stood Flavius Jacobus, at the foot of Rhodes's Temple of Jupiter, there to bid his old friend into the temple. 

"Well, the Temple of Jupiter here is not much of a temple but it'll do for now. Rome and Rhodes bids welcome to its Protector in the East. I hope this trip is turning out as eventfully as you hoped?" 

And on the center wall of the Temple, sitting upon Divine Jupiter's lap was Caesar Augustus. 

"Well, I don't know if I hoped for such events but..."

"...Such events you now have. We have named you Rome's Protector in the East, and we trust that you will act to Rome's benefit just as you've acted to Judea's. Do you notice all the finery behind you in your triumph?" 

"I couldn't help but.."

"..It's yours of course." 

"Isn't some slave supposed to shout in my ear to remember that I'm mortal?" 

"You're from Judea, nobody forgets there." 

"So this is a triumph?" 

"It's very much a triumph. Yours and mine." 

"Didn't you have a triumph of your own in Rome?"

"Come with me King, let's talk among the ruins." 

(Caesar and Herod go to beach of Rhodes and talk among the Colossus's many bronze ruins)

"What ruler who wants to die of natural causes ever throws himself a triumph?" 

"So this is..."

"This is my celebration as much as yours. When Divine Julius wanted to celebrate, it was to places like Rhodes he came. 'My boy, when Romans go north you work, when you go east and south, you play.'"

"Your father went to Rhodes?"

"He tried to go to Rhodes, then he was abducted by pirates, just like you were." 

"I wasn't abducted by pirates." 

"You weren't?" 

"I was shipwrecked after Cleopatra sent me to Italy to pitch something straight to you and Anthony. I honestly thought I'd be dead - either Cleopatra wanted me thrown overboard, or have Anthony kill me, and if they didn't, I figured you would. But instead I was shipwrecked and fell into the belly of whale where I stayed for three days."

"You mean like your prophet Jonah?..."

"How do you know about Jonah?"

"A good leader reads..."

"I swear it happened." 

"If you say it happened it did. You're a king and kings write their own histories. There are all sorts of things that happened to me which no one would believe." 

"If you say so." 

Augustus begins to croak and ribbit like a frog. Within forty seconds, three hundred and some frogs appear noisily atop the ruins of Rhodes's Colossus and bow to two of them, within thirty seconds the frogs leave. 

"The Gods allow some people to do some very strange things. We great men, we're not made of the same stuff." 

"In my country, I'm told there is only one god who grants such permissions." 

"But I've heard you believe in two."

"How did you discover that?" 

"A good leader also listens." 

"I don't necessarily believe in two gods. I've only heard one."

"What god is that?"

"The 'other' God."

"The other god?"

"The God who appeared to me after the destruction of my true home country, Idumea, and told me to avenge my homeland against the Jewish people and Yahweh." 

"So it's true!" 

"What?"

"You hate your people!" 

"And you love Romans?"

"I'm ambivalent about them." 

"You fear them!" 

"Yes, very much so." 

"How much more reason have I to fear mine? They killed my family, they killed the family that birthed my family, they've been killing my family since the time of Lot and Ishmael." 

"Well, the Romans did just kill my father, but no, we don't have your prodigal patrimony. Rome is a city of immigrants, and immigrants come to new places to forget their old hatreds." 

"Hatred is history's oldest motivator. Let Roman history go on long enough there will be enough hatred to power the rest of Judea's history."

"Don't forget yourself Protector, you're still in the company of the only man in the world you can't rule." 

"My apologies your majesty."

"Don't you dare call me that. I'm no king and no emperor, my title is 'Mr. Princeps', Rome's First Citizen." 

"You really want me to call you that?"

"It's just ridiculous enough that people won't be in awe of me." 

"Whatever you say Mr. Princeps." 

"I must say, I'm more impressed than I expected to be." 

"What did you expect?" 

"The whole world knows of Herod's Odyssian cunning, but I worried I'd find a spoiled killer." 

"Well, guilty as charged, that's exactly what you got." 

"We have spoiled killers everywhere in Rome, the spoiled killers kill each other and assume they can take their spoils without another spoiled killer coming to take theirs; but you're different Herod son of Antipater. I can't tell whether you're just a little spoiled or just a lot a killer, but men like you either build nations or destroy them."

"What charm of mine gave it away?" 

"Don't you know? You, king of a people supposed so skilled in the arts of duplicity?"

"I'm not a Jew." 

"Of course you are, all semites are partially Jews, and you rule over them! Were you not the most gifted among a very gifted people you'd just be another Judean prince strangled in a prison."

"I still don't understand."

"Of course you do. You're gifted enough that I'm scared just talking to you." 

"Mr. Princeps can't be scared of a vassal king." 

"I'm scared of every vassal king who knows to speak less than I do."

"Have I spoken less?"

"I don't know, but had you spoken more, it would have been impossible not to read your mind, and you'd be stunned how many vassal kings speak over me in conversation."

"Ignorance is bold. Knowledge is reserved." 

"Indeed, yet amid all this tact and polish, I hear that there is no German horde who can do to people all it's said Herod does, and it's for that reason I trust you Herod-ben-Antipater to pilot a project I hope to institute through the whole empire." 

"What project?" 

"Jew, how long took it your people to advance from Abraham to such learning as you now have that neither the might of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Syria, nor Greece could destroy you, and you've arrived at such eminence and might that the banks of men like Flavius Jacobus, uncannily scrupulous and unscrupulous whenever appropriate, is the coin of the largest Empire the world has ever seen? Two thousand years?" 

"Yes, it would seem that or thereabout."

"It was roughly the same time that Egypt and Sumeria learned to read, yes?" 

"I suppose." 

"Now look at this bronze Jew. Two and half centuries ago, the might of the ancient world looked upon its work and despaired, and after fifty years, a mere earthquake took it down for all time. I understand there was an earthquake none to far ago in Jerusalem?" 

"One of a few. I'm afraid I don't understand." 

"Two thousand years it took from Jews to go from a desert people to work at the side of the most powerful empire the world. Prosperity never abides long in the same place, and so this, now, is a once every two millennia opportunity. The most educated nations in the world are also the most powerful." 

"I suppose I see that, but I don't understand what to do with it." 

"It will not be again unless we educate the world to our standard." 

"You think you can do that?"

"I think YOU can do that. Rome may think it wants glory for its senate and its people, but Rome must not be allowed to become a permanent empire of bread and circus! Your people are commanded to be a light unto nations? Well, be that light!" 

"I... Mr. Princeps, I think your ambition exceeds even your own power. Who am I that I should be the one to bring the world out of slavery? Does the world even wish to be brought freedom?" 

"The world does not know what it wishes, it does not know what it needs. But what the world needs is for all her vassal nations to be as strong as Rome herself."

"Wouldn't that cause permanent war?" 

"Not if nations were united in alliance!" 

"Mr. Princeps, you surely realize this is madness." 

"It is only the mad who seek leadership!" 

"And it is surely only the mad who seek the world's improvement."

"Then be mad with me Jew. Surely you've seen the augers. Jupiter is in retrograde for the next fifty years, every horoscope in the world predicts that we are on the cusp of a new age with a new way of looking at the world. Surely you see the evidence all around you." 

"The evidence is Rome." 

"No, the evidence is change." 

"Rome is change."

"No. Change is Rome. Pericles built a republic in Athens, but it was a mere city-state, it became an empire for two minutes, once the Delian League became the Athenian empire it declined within in a generation. Rome's republic has lasted seven-hundred years. For its Republic to survive it must have its own league of nations!" 

"How does one affect that?" 

"This is my imperial project. This is my imperial legacy.... A religion."

"You want to export the Jewish religion throughout the empire?"

"No, though I could think of worse religions. I want a religion of liberalism." 

"Surely you know my people would not accept any god but Yahweh." 

"No, but religions can coexist with the religion I have in mind to export. All the local gods can still be worshipped, but we compel their gods to embody toleration, practical logic, knowledge and open exchange."" 

"I don't think my people are as intelligent as you think we are." 

"But they can be if you educate them! Doesn't your bible encourage charity and indulgence to the poor?" 

"You can't interpret everything in the Bible literally." 

"Just remember this, King, of all men's miseries, the bitterest is this: to know so much and have control over nothing." 

"In what?" 

"So many of them already read, so many of them handle money; teach them our higher maths and physic!" '

"Hardly any of them read! Two in every hundred perhaps!"

"Two in every hundred is more than the one in every hundred in Rome."  

"I don't even know your higher maths and physic!" 

"It only need begin with a couple dozen. You're Herod the builder, teach your people to build so that there are a hundred Herod the builders! We'll send the engineers!" 

".... Mr. Princeps, I worry that by saying that I believe in your vision, you'll realize that I'm indulging you. So I would like to tell you a lesson my father imparted to me about his idea of the perfect government." 

"Your father was an able man." 

"The ablest. If I may speak freely?"

"Always." 

"Were he Roman he could have outfoxed your father." 

"My father said as much every time Antipater was mentioned. Nothing would delight me more than to hear your father's lesson." 

"My father said the perfect government is a government were all its subjects were slaves, but thought themselves free." 

"Don't you see Jew, that is precisely the government I seek." 

"I'm afraid I don't understand." 

"Once the world is educated, they are slaves to their reason, and they will be forever compelled to make the wise choice." 

"Sire, I will tell you what I am thinking right now. My father gave me a Greek tutor, as I'm sure your father did."

"Of course." 

"So you know your Herodotus." 

"Indeed." 

"Of all men's miseries, the bitterest is this.." 

"'..to know so much and to have control over nothing.' Yes Jew, of course I know my Herodotus, I read it once every year and that is precisely the point. So long as Rome is me, Rome knows enough to surrender its hoard of knowledge to the world, and once the world has knowledge, the world's storehouse of knowledge will forever increase and we all will be forever ignorant of its full contents." 

"And you know your Thucydides." 

"He's a little drier. The limits of my intelligence. I expect you're smart enough to remember every passage."

"Only because the tutor would flay me alive if I didn't. The quote is 'Most people, in fact, will not take the trouble in discovering the truth,'"

"'but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear.' Yes, my father's favorite maxim. So let's make sure the first story they hear from birth is the truth. But you've also read The Republic." 

"Oh god that fucking Greek tyrant. Still worse would happen every time I didn't sufficiently commit it to memory." 

"So then you know these quote Jew: Either we shall find what it is we're seeking.."

(both) "..or at least we shall free ourselves from the persuasion that we know what we do not know." 

"Let's free these men from their caves Jew. I doubt you believe in the augers any more than I do, but the astrologers surely see the new era we all live in and predict accordingly. Let's head off this new era's ignorance and blood by creating an era of our own. You know exactly what I'm going to quote now." 

"Pericles?"

"Indeed. Recite it Jew." 

“For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples...

"Splendidus Iudaeus. Come, let's embrace on this." 

(Herod comes over, Augustus pulls him into a hug, kisses him directly on the lips, then Augustus takes Herod's hand in his gently. The gentle stroke becomes an iron grip, and Augustus severs the artery in Herod's arm with his dagger and it seems as though Augustus is about to cut Herod's arm completley off. Herod's arm spurts blood in volumes and he screams so loud the entire beach hears him. The scream turns into whimpers and Herod cannot help but cry.)

(Augustus whispers a millmeter away from Herod's ear) 

"We've documented every manner in which you've ordered a subject executed. Cross me on this project Philistine and you'll watch as we use all those techniques on your children, then save a technique never yet seen in Judea for you."

(Herod continues to whimper. Augustus reaches behind one of the ruins and produces a woolen coat." 

"Come, put this coat on. Rhodes gets cold at night and it absorbs the blood like a bandage. No one will will even know you bleed. As Rome's protector in the East you have to sacrifice to Jupiter like us all tonight, and then you'll be paraded in triumph again tomorrow back to your ship. We'll give you golden armor to cover the wound. (Augustus hugs Herod again) Come, they're waiting for us at the temple." 









Thursday, February 2, 2023

Tales of Classical Perversion - Palestine's Colossus - Large Beginning

(this story happens in the month following the debate of Hillel and Shammai) 

Herod sails Rhodes to meet with Octavian, the newly coronated Caesar Augustus, ready to supplicate himself to Augustus's feet and, having collaborated with Augustus's Enemy, Anthony, beg for Octavian's clemency to spare the lives of Herod and his court.

As the ship approaches the ruins of Rhodes's famous Colossus, two sailors talk, one Roman the other Judean: 

"When sailors sailed under it, they must have peered up. Did they... ,,, get a view of anything underneath?" "There's no phallus among the ruins if that's what you're implying." "How could there not be?!" "Well it's just not there." "It just seems unlikely to go to all that trouble to scare the bejeesus out of visitors by sailing under a statue a hundred meters tall and not give it a sch.." "..I don't know what to tell you." "Maybe you Romans should... y'know... look harder." "Are you saying the fucking Colossus of Rhodes had a small..." "I'm not saying it was small, though it had to be small enough that somebody could make it disappear without noticing." "You're fucking pazzo." "Look, all I'm saying is that something must have happened, and I bet I know what did even..." "Whatdya' think?" "I think some Jewish bronze merchant a hundred years ago said getta load'a that schvantz, and sold it to a Roman senator." "...Get the fuck outa here!" "I really do!" "You think some Yid had the balls to steal a gigantic bronze phallus from the most watched site in the world?" "I think Rome helped!" "You think the penis of the Colossus of Rhodes is in Rome?!" "I think it's standing straight up on top of the fucking Pantheon is what I think." 

 Only to find when he pulls into the harbor that there are carved statues in the likeness of Herod and Antipater right next to the feet of the old Colossus. Herod has no idea what this means. 

Herod embarks from the ship. His only welcome? A dozen naked slave girls, who paint his face red, strip him of his clothes so that they can place purple toga on him, then place a laurel wreath atop his head. Herod is put on a chariot and pulled into a Roman-style triumph through the streets of Rhodes. The charioteer continually calls out 'Hail Herod! Rome's protector in the East! Hail Herod! Vanquisher of the Hasmoneans! Hail Herod! Ensnarer of Cleopatra! Hail Herod! Rebuilder of Jerusalem!" Behind him comes an open caravan showcasing an armory's worth of weapons - the short gladius, the long spatha, the tiny pugio, the enormous hasta, the aerodynamic pilum, the flying plumbata - a hundred of them each at least, and a dozen each at least in all matter of catapult: the onager, the ballista, the scorpio; and a thousand dolabras - the tool which every Roman soldier used for digging, along with a thousand helmets and shields. Then came open chests of gold and silver in currency coin and bullion: Aureus, Quinarius Aureus, Denarius, Quinarius, Sesterius, Dupondius, As, Semis, and Quadrans. Then further chests containing giant jewels of pearl, jade, malachite, amethyst, carnelian, topaz, chalcedony, obsidian, olivine, and  lapis lazulli. Behind the jewels are further statues and paintings and tapestries: of Herod, Antipater, Mairiam, and all the Hasmonean protectors, and of all the prophets of the Bible. 

Six hours later, at the end of the parade, stood Flavius Jacobus, at the foot of Rhodes's Temple of Jupiter, there to bid his old friend into the temple. 

"Well, the Temple of Jupiter here is not much of a temple but it'll do for now. Rome and Rhodes bids welcome to its Protector in the East. I hope this trip is turning out as eventfully as you hoped?" 

And on the center wall of the Temple, sitting upon Divine Jupiter's lap was Caesar Augustus. 

"Well, I don't know if I hoped for such events but..."

"...Such events you now have. We have named you Rome's Protector in the East, and we trust that you will act to Rome's benefit just as you've acted to Judea's. Do you notice all the finery behind you in your triumph?" 

"I couldn't help but.."

"..It's yours of course." 

"Isn't some slave supposed to shout in my ear to remember that I'm mortal?" 

"You're from Judea, nobody forgets there." 

"So this is a triumph?" 

"It's very much a triumph. Yours and mine." 

"Didn't you have a triumph of your own in Rome?"

"Come with me King, let's talk among the ruins." 

(Caesar and Herod go to beach of Rhodes and talk among the Colossus's many bronze ruins)

"What ruler who wants to die of natural causes ever throws himself a triumph?" 

"So this is..."

"This is my celebration as much as yours. When Divine Julius wanted to celebrate, it was to places like Rhodes he came. 'My boy, when Romans go north you work, when you go east and south, you play.'"

"Your father went to Rhodes?"

"He tried to go to Rhodes, then he was abducted by pirates, just like you were." 

"I wasn't abducted by pirates." 

"You weren't?" 

"I was shipwrecked after Cleopatra sent me to Italy to pitch something straight to you and Anthony. I honestly thought I'd be dead - either Cleopatra wanted me thrown overboard, or have Anthony kill me, and if they didn't, I figured you would. But instead I was shipwrecked and fell into the belly of whale where I stayed for three days."

"You mean like your prophet Jonah?..."

"How do you know about Jonah?"

"A good leader reads..."

"I swear it happened." 

"If you say it happened it did. You're a king and kings write their own histories. There are all sorts of things that happened to me which no one would believe." 

"If you say so." 

Augustus begins to croak and ribbit like a frog. Within forty seconds, three hundred and some frogs appear noisily atop the ruins of Rhodes's Colossus and bow to two of them, within thirty seconds the frogs leave. 

"The Gods allow some people to do some very strange things. We great men, we're not made of the same stuff." 

"In my country, I'm told there is only one god who grants such permissions." 

"But I've heard you believe in two."

"How did you discover that?" 

"A good leader also listens." 

"I don't necessarily believe in two gods. I've only heard one."

"What god is that?"

"The 'other' God."

"The other god?"

"The God who appeared to me after the destruction of my true home country, Idumea, and told me to avenge my homeland against the Jewish people and Yahweh." 

"So it's true!" 

"What?"

"You hate your people!" 

"And you love Romans?"

"I'm ambivalent about them." 

"You fear them!" 

"Yes, very much so." 

"How much more reason have I to fear mine? They killed my family, they killed the family that birthed my family, they've been killing my family since the time of Lot and Ishmael." 

"Well, the Romans did just kill my father, but no, we don't have your prodigal patrimony. Rome is a city of immigrants, and immigrants come to new places to forget their old hatreds." 

"Hatred is history's oldest motivator. Let Roman history go on long enough there will be enough hatred to power the rest of Judea's history."

"Don't forget yourself Protector, you're still in the company of the only man in the world you can't rule." 

"My apologies your majesty."

"Don't you dare call me that. I'm no king and no emperor, my title is 'Mr. Princeps', Rome's First Citizen." 

"You really want me to call you that?"

"It's just ridiculous enough that people won't be in awe of me." 

"Whatever you say Mr. Princeps." 

"I must say, I'm more impressed than I expected to be." 

"What did you expect?" 

"A spoiled killer." 

"Well, guilty as charged, that's what you got." 

"We have spoiled killers everywhere in Rome, the spoiled killers kill each other and assume they can take their spoils without another spoiled killer coming to take theirs; but you're different Herod son of Antipater. I can't tell whether you're just a little spoiled or just a lot a killer, but men like you either build nations or destroy them."

"What charm of mine gave it away?" 

"Don't you know? You among the people who are supposed to be so skilled in the arts of duplicity?"

"I'm not a Jew." 

"Of course you are, all semites are partially Jews, and you rule over them all! If you were not the most gifted among a very gifted people you'd just be another Judean prince strangled in a prison."

"I still don't understand."

"Of course you do. You're gifted enough that I'm getting scared just talking to you." 

"Oh?"







Monday, January 30, 2023

Some Incoherent Thoughts on Mahler 5

 


Cursory utterly incomplete listens of Mahler 5 (mostly the scherzo), absolutely no attempt at thoroughness made, were it not a list meant to reinforce my prejudices at the outset, it did as I listened...:
I believe Mahler 5 is about bodies. The first movement is obviously about death: a funeral march with songs and wails of lamentation. The second movement is soldiers marches and exercises, terrors and traumas, the boring social events you have to go to - urban and rural - along with the traumatic stress you feel at them, and quite possibly explosions and deaths (still more foreshadowings of WWI in Mahler's work). The third movement is urban (Viennese) mentality: waltzes, inane chatter, seductions, sensory overload and social panics, looking around the corner and hoping nothing dangerous is there, loneliness in the street at night. The fourth movement is, well... sex... and not just sex, but sex with someone you truly love. It has its quotes from 'Ich bin der Welt'... and it prefigures the Ewig of Das Lied and the opening motif of Mahler 9. In Mahler, as in Wagner and Mann and Freud, sex and death are as mystically connected as sex and life.
The finale, is, well, counterpoint, and counterpoint is about functionality. It is about going through the day with everything working out. I hear the beginning as the first awakening to consciousness in the morning after a night making love, getting ready for the day, and those few quotes from the Adagietto are those banal exchanges of 'I love you' you have with your partner before you go about your daily business. Every B-Flat brass interruption is like a exclamation of FALSCH! (WRONG!). Something goes wrong and you have to put it right, until through daily life you put life right which countries at war never can. I hear all the orchestral musicians rehearsing, the singers warming up, the accompanists practicing their scales. It's all the backstage excitement and banality of the opera house.
I know it's a fool's errand to put together a program about music, but this is what this music sounds like to me.
Every movement but the Adagietto must have the motion of the body in action - this symphony is as much the apotheosis of the dance as Beethoven 7. Every kind of dance is here: urban and rural, Jewish and Christian, peasant and sophisticate. Every sort of irony is here along with every sort of expression.
Gold:
Kubelik - all three with ultimate preference to... well I dunno...
Gielen
Zander (after searching, I had no reason not to put him here)
What makes gold? Trying to honor as many of the markings as possible while still retaining one's individuality, getting what I see as the essential structure of the work - which is bit faster-paced than the mean but nevertheless with plenty of tempo variation, and occasionally slower than average too (like in the B-Flat Minor outburst in the first movement - it's a song and wail of lamentation, and the opening of the second movement - it's a march that prefigures the beginning of the sixth. And hell, the entire finale. The tempo marking of 'Frisch' is supposed to put us in mind of an awakening just as the 'ersterbend' marking at the end of Mahler 9 is supposed to make us think of death), and not shying away from the many, many, MANY ugly orchestral sounds Mahler demands in his markings as well as the beautiful ones.
Silver:
Roth
Inbal - Frankfurt '87 video (so close...)
Honeck
A. Fischer
Walter (extreme allowances made for it being the first recording)
Inbal - Frankfurt 2000 video (not as close but a gold medal in my heart)
Bronze:
Kondrashin
Nott
Stenz/Koln
Chailly/Concertgebouw
Rattle
Tennstedt '84 Live
Herbig
Solti/Zurich (My memory did not deceive me. Solti's last performance was a real Mahler 5.)
Honorable Mentions:
Maderna/Philadelphia
Rosbaud (what I said about Walter)
Horenstein/Berlin (ditto)
Abbado/Berlin
Dudamel/Bolivar
Good but not...:
Bernstein/Vienna 70s video
Ha Nan Chang/Trondheim
Conceptions I disagree with done with integrity:
Jansons
I. Fischer
Zinman
Barshai
Tennstedt live '88
Wellber/Vienna Symphony (very new. I can't tell if Wellber's extravagances make him a Honeck or a Currentzis [draw your own inference], but he will be the next huge name soon.)
Ozawa
Bychkov
Segerstam
Performances that are objectively less than good but are magnificent because they conform to my personal taste:
Mitropoulos
Abravanel
Pretre
Barbirolli/Houston (TERRIBLE sound)
Comissiona
Probably great if you like that sorta thing...:
Karajan
Bernstein/Vienna
Levine
Haitink
Abbado/Chicago
Solti/Chicago
Fuck if I know...:
Sinopoli
It's OK...:
Abbado/Lucerne (Abbado's famed 'just listen to them' was as much a way of not rehearsing as a philosophy. Maybe he was lazy, maybe he was too sick, but where he tried to honor the score in previous versions he relied on his glorious individual players to do the work without supervision.)
Neumann/Leipzig (I used to like this very much, then I looked at the score, and realized Neumann was doing his normal Wabash thing of doing nothing but getting a sound. I do not like Vaclav Neumann.)
Mehta/New York (I was blown away on first hearing, then I looked at the score and realized it was another Wabash. Once you look at the page, you can't unhear what it makes you hear. Note to self... stop reading the score...)
Eschenbach/Paris (A Wabash of a completely different variety. Eschenbach creates a truly dark German sound, worthy of Der Ring, with lots of rubato as is his wont, but again, it's just monodynamic, everything going back and forth between mezzo-forte and forte, rarely if ever below or above.)
Bad:
Norrington (two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof...)
Dohnanyi (rating this caused me pain)
Barbirolli (rating this caused me more)
It's just... the worst...:
Boulez/Vienna
Boulez/BBC
Not even gonna listen to Cleveland.
Conductors I think would have done it well, star indicates particularly so:
Koussevitzky
Stokowski
Steinberg *
E. Kleiber *
Schmidt-Isserstedt
Kletzki
Beinum *
Sanderling
Fricsay
Harnoncourt
Conductors I know I've heard but don't remember:
Deneve
Noseda
Temirkanov
Alsop
Chailly/Leipzig
Gergiev (grrr..)
Conductors Whom I Particularly Hope Do It:
K. Petrenko *
T. Fischer
Metzmacher *
I reserve the right to re-rate this at a later date.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Inbal's Mahler (again)

 I think a lot of us are listening to Mahler 5 right now because of Tar (I think I speak for every classical musician in the world when I say 'What the hell was that?!?')

Inbal's first cycle was... not particularly special, but this performance is so much more electric than the studio recording. The level is low so listen on your TV if you can. It makes a few things clear.
  1. Inbal always had stupid hair.
  2. Inbal was one of the few conductors who ever understood the structure of Mahler 5. Just as an example, many conductors take the funeral march too slow and then make the b-flat minor outburst much too quick so that it's over in a flash. I doubt Mahler wanted a metric relationship between the two tempi, but judging by his piano roll he probably wanted something much closer to it than we generally hear, like, say, the difference between 72 BPM and 96 (3:4). Usually you hear about 63 to 108, which is actually pretty close to a golden ratio, but not a simple switch. Dohnanyi, being that musical ubermensch, got the skeletal structure of Mahler 5 nearly exactly right, but he deliberately denatured Mahler of its Mahlerness. Two conductors who do very much understand it were the very first to record it - Bruno Walter and Rafael Kubelik; but their orchestras, great as they were, did not know Mahler well enough yet to be fully up to the challenges, and they were not among nature's orchestral trainers. Nevertheless, they're two of the towering recordings of a work that doesn't have too many.
  3. Inbal does not stint on the inner content of Mahler as well as the outer. It may be a little too fast in the scherzo and finale, but Mahler without the vulgarity, without molto vibrato, slides, obnoxious winds, crude solos, and the occasional unmarked molto rubato, is not Mahler. It is antithetical to the way he said he wanted conductors to play his scores, and often antithetical to what's marked in his scores. Sometimes, what's written in Mahler's score sounds like it's interpolated, but what would be interpolated would be to simply skate over the tempo marking without noting a change. Mahler is supposed to be stream of consciousness, deliberately disorganized, he is a man of fin-de-siecle Vienna, picking up the same intellectual currents as Freud, Wittgenstein, even Einstein. He did not think linearly after the manner of Bach and middle-period Beethoven, and it's a willful misrepresentation to claim so.
  4. Inbal shows one doesn't need the exaggerations of Bernstein to make Mahler's deliberate disorganization clear. Like Walter and Kubelik, the exoskeleton Mahler laid out in his score provided is pretty much everywhere without overmuch personal license, but so is the vulgarity, so is the schmaltz and schmerz. TS Eliot wrote 'in my end is my beginning' and just as Mahler provided a grand summation of the Austro-German tradition, he led the way to 20th century high modernism, and also to modern popular music; the demotic vulgarity of which is scrawled around his music like graffiti, and never moreso than in the Fifth Symphony, which has dance rhythms everywhere - both of Wunderhorn rural Bohemia and sophisticated urban Vienna. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_PPYsucbj8
Here's Inbal doing Mahler 5 thirteen years later. Back in '87 he looked quite fit, but by now he's beginning to resemble The Penguin from Batman as he has ever since. He's with the exact same orchestra, but by this time he hasn't been their music director for ten years. In the nineties he was a conductor without portfolio, and during those years he became a cosmic Mahlerian for all time.
It's not really a different interpretation, but it's much deeper now, and electric as it was live in '87, it's still much more electric now. What's the difference? Well, there are some superficial differences. The Scherzo's a bit more relaxed, and that's entirely to the good, he drops the tempo in the movements' center far more, and perhaps that's not to the good, but one can't argue with the vividness of the texture he brings out, particularly in the pizzicato section, which is so vivid that it calls to mind the zither in The Third Man.
But the real difference is nothing interpolated by personal license. Inbal sees all the dynamic and phrase markings in the score, and brings them out to their maximum possible extent. I don't doubt some people would hear this and find it exaggerated and mannered, I find it glorious. Here is is the vulgarity Mahler requires, the vulgarity that scandalized early audiences who thought Mahler polluted the Canon with street music (aka Jewish music). One needn't compromise the structure in order to find its content, one need only read the score, which has markings which, if followed, would have made Brahms pull the hair out from his beard.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7we6mLBi4E

Tar - A slight review...

Two days later I'm still thinking about it. I mean... it wasn't a bad movie, it just wasn't really a movie.
Everybody keeps comparing this director to Stanley Kubrick. I dislike everything Kubrick made after Paths of Glory, so classical music or not, this movie is clearly not for me. It's deliberately cold, sterile, every color is washed out, every shot gives you claustrophobia. (you as in me)
I'm not going to get into all the things it got wrong about classical music. They really needed a better consultant, because the remedial level shit they don't know is breathtaking - but that's true in movies about every subject which you know anything about. You simply can't expect people who don't know the world from the inside to get it right. The essence of a work of art is not what its world is, the essence is what its world means, and what the world of Tar means is..... I have no fucking idea....
So that being said, there's more to it than that. It does get the 'feel' right of what it means to be at the top of the 'fine arts' in any form. It's a completely sterile thing. There's a reason the Faust myth was so popular in classical music: one way or another, everybody who 'plays the game' at that level sells their soul. Unless your life is truly shit and you have no outlet for your feelings but the page, your time is spent hustling donors, eating in expensive restaurants, travelling to airports in limos, living in hotels, feeding bullshit jargon to interviewers and students and watching them lap it up as though you're a god until you believe it yourself. Bach and Rembrandt did not live lives like that. They may have not been any more talented than Lydia Tar or Philip Glass, but they lived gloomy lives of loneliness and humiliation, and the moment anyone met them, they quickly forgot they were in the presence of Beethoven and Michelangelo; and instead saw the presence of deeply annoying human beings whom you cross the street to avoid. And from these lonely lives, Schubert and Chekhov and Goya created things that can only be created by people who know just how demoralizing life can get. The Lydia Tars of the arts have no idea what that's like. I daresay, even most of the greatest movie directors have little idea. Having to actually live the tragedies of van Gogh and Dostoevsky is what most famous artists dread, and even if it might be the stuff of what truly cosmic art is made, no one should wish that life on their worst enemy.

The problem with Tar has little to do with its treatment of music, or celebrity, or power, or identity, or cancel culture, or separating artist from art, or even the questionable nature of making Lydia Tar a woman; the problem is not even that Tar has a paranormal angle which frames it either as a ghost story or as a series of hallucinations. The problem with Tar is that it tries to be deeply ambiguous about things that we've all discussed every day for the last five years.
There is not a single angle or avenue which Tar explores that culturally aware people haven't explored in conversation with more detail and more ambiguity than Tar ever could. In watching their fall, we all became more obsessed with the Lydia Tars of the world than ever before, and in so obsessing about their descent, we are facilitating their resurrections. Whether they're at all deserving or not, many of them will rise again, because America has no idea how to ignore its celebrities unless their stories are boring, and there's nothing America finds more interesting than a scandal. Like with the listeners to True Crime podcasts, the very people who most recoil at the actions of these celebrities obsessively think through of every sort of ambiguity in their situations as though a part of them absolves the very people they were eager to damn.
A much better movie would be made from Lydia Tar after her fall, because that is the act we're all beginning to see now. It's been more than five years, and so many of these celebrities are climbing out of scandal's muck on youtube, or podcasts, or small movie roles; many of these celebrities are pathological narcissists, all of whom had the limelight taken away from them in the ways that would be more humiliating to a narcissist than anybody else. If a movie were made about this act of their lives, we would get to watch all the personal humiliations, small and large, they'd deliberately put themselves through in order to get back into the limelight.
That's the movie I want to see. In the meantime, the majority of Tar's running time is mostly a movie about classical music that doesn't know much about it, while the substance of the movie happens entirely outside the margins of the frame.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Tales of Classical Perversion: Thus Spake Herod - Second Draft

    (It is to posterity's negligible loss that Sharlappius's account of Antipater's later years and Herod's early years is entirely lost. Sharlappius's Tales of Classical Perversion was discovered only due to a sack of Palmyra by early Muslims attempting to levy the destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin. Again, it is thought that this is a mere volume of a much larger work encompassing similar tales of classical Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Egypt, Carthage, and Persia. By cutting into one of the stone columns an unnamed Islamic personage discovered a pristinely preserved text within its marble. There are, however, sections obscured by varied stains of blood; implying that whomever initially carried the text out from the city was gravely wounded.

It is highly probable that these missing tales of the volume deal with lessons of statesmanship imparted by Antipater to his son, Herod the Great; with Herod's trial before the Sanhedrin for which he appeared with armed escort, of dealings between Herod and his Roman patron: Sextus Julius - uncle of Caesar, Herod's betrothal to Mariam - granddaughter to yet another Hyrcanus Hasmonean who had usurped Antipater, and Herod's subsequent poisoning and usurpasion of said Hyrcanus after Hyrcanus poisoned Herod's brother and mutilated another brother's ears so that should he escape he could not be Herod's high priest.

As stated in the forward to this volume, due to subtle differences in the writing style, it is highly probable that Sharlappius is a portmanteau of ancient texts collated into a larger chronicle; perhaps a group of writers in conjunction. Some passages aspire to the sublimity of classical epic, others to biblical cadence, still others seem written by classical dramatists of particular mediocrity, all exaggerating the historical record for dramatic license yet derivative of previous texts to point of plagiarism, none of particularly distinguished aesthetic quality nor historical value; but of some historiographic value as record of how particularly mediocre writers of their day approached historical subjects. 

 - Dr. Raginmund Westenbach - Free University Berlin, 1952)

4. It was in the general worldview of Julius Caesar that he saw open liberality as great benefit to autocratic aims. It is to be doubted that he had specific opinion of Jews, but he welcomed Jews to his court as he did all peoples whom he saw of use, and treated those Jews of detriment with the ruthless vengeance to which he meted every person of impedimence. The consistency of his approach, the open embrace of allies and pitiless retaliation to enemies was to his great benefit against Pompey's unpredictable caprice; which, in turn, was of great benefit to Rome, as the virtue of Caesarean imperitration saved their Empire from fortune's ever repositioning chaos, even as it was to the detriment of continually more sombered peoples subsumed within Rome's eternal expansion. 

5. As a young man in the desert, displaced from power, his father dead, defeated after yet another battle with Hasmoneans; Herod the Great, penurious and derelict, fleeing yet another capture, contemplating suicide; a desert vision spoke directly unto him: 

'Herod. Herod the Great. I am the Lord your God. The God of Lot, the God of Ishmael, and the God of Esau. Go unto Egypt, speak with Cleopatra, receive her benefaction, and avenge all brothers of disfavor.' 

In contemplative response, thus spake Herod:  

"It is this fate of the world which I solemnly welcome to make final reckoning unto the Judean peoples to ignominious providence, consigning them in wrathful duplicity to beyond the lychgates of Sheol. Were Idumea to die one thousand million deaths, fate would be more merciful than one generation more's endurance of Israel. The God of Israel is the God of death, and death shall die from Palestine's vengeance. "

6. And Herod visited Cleopatra in Alexandria, and Cleopatra offered Herod generalship in a war against the Partheans, who supported the claim of a third Antigonus, whom with Parthea's assistance handed Herod opprobrious defeat: 

Herod: "I need shit." Cleopatra: "You just got shit." "I need more shit than this." "You're not getting more."  "Like fuck I'm not, you need me and you don't even motherfucking know how badly." "Give me one good reason I shouldn't have you drowned in a human-sized vat of slave piss." "Do you have any idea how bad the Parthean threat is?" "Bad enough to hand you your ass." "The Partheans wouldn't beat fuckall if they didn't have help from a peoples you've never heard of." "What peoples are those schnorrer?" "These people from the far east called the Chinese whose country alone is bigger than Rome's empire." "Fuck you." "They've got yellow skin and slits for eyes." "Don't be racist." "You make slaves of every brown person to your south and you care about being racist?" "We have ambassadors from every court in the classical world and you're feeding me bubbemeicehs about how there's a country larger than Rome subsidizing an emperor whose most famous deed is fucking himself in the ass with his brass drinking horns?" "Look at these pictographs here." "Fuck you what am I looking at?" "You're the ones with the pictographic script you tell me!" "Dennis! Look at this script." (Court scribe Dennis comes over.) Herod: "This is Chinese calligraphy." Tell me. Does this or does this not look like the pictograph for war?" Dennis: "I suppose there's a certain resemblance." Herod: "And does this not look like the word for Egypt?" "Not particularly." Herod: "It's so obvious!" Cleopatra: "You're an idiot." Herod: "And this looks like your pictograph for Jews." Cleopatra: "You're telling me a bunch of black lines slashing through other lines look like our technicolor picture language?" "Look at it!" "And you're telling me that there's a people so far across the world that their whole country alone is as big as Rome's empire didn't evolve pictographs that mean things completely different from what they mean to us?" "So you admit there's a resemblance!" Dennis: "There's a certain resemblance." Cleopatra: "Shut the fuck up Dennis!" 

7. To quell potential fears amid the Alexandrine court of Chinese invasion, Cleopatra put Herod upon a ship bound for Rome to visit Marc Anthony and beseech him a Roman legion. 

And a tempest did toss the ship upon the waters and the ship was like to be broken. 

"Fuuuuuuuck. Why are you sleeping?" "What's going on!" "We're in a tempest. Pray to your god." "What god?" "Don't you have a god?" "I have two gods." "Pray to them both." "One of them probably wants me to be in this storm." "Then jump off the fucking ship." "I'm not jumping the fucking ship!" "If you're responsible for this storm then jump off the ship." "I'm not fucking responsible." "Then fucking pray." "What will praying do?" "You don't want to pray? Then join the crew! Take a fucking hammer and some nails to mend the broken hull." "I'm not helping, I used to be a king." "Fuck you, and I'm Cyrus the Great. Take this shit and fucking work." "I'm fine with working! I'm just royalty and don't know how to use this. What do you call it? A hammer and nail?" "Just take it. You club the nails into the wood with the hammer." 

8. And Herod did take the hammer and nail, but no sooner did he put them into his cassock's pocket than the storm's wave did toss into the sea its passengers, and all did perish in the sea but Herod, who was swallowed by an whale. And Herod dwelt inside the whale for three days, and still he had the hammer and nail, and upon the third day Herod said: 'Behold, I have lived upon the fish swallowed by the great whale, but I am like to die in the belly of such a leviathan.' And Herod did hammer a nail into the whale's stomach, whereupon the whale did vomit, and did extrude Herod and his fish. And Herod did find himself near to the coastline of Sicily and the city of Lampedusa, and an Sicilian fishermen did see Herod from his boat and called to him: "Behold, thou art the likeness of a man sent from sea by Neptune. Let me not entertain angels unaware." And the fisherman did take Herod into his boat and did ferry him to the peninsula of Italia, where Herod did sojourn to Rome by foot. 

9. Once again penurious and derelict, Herod came to Rome and a rich Roman Jew immediately knew him, one Flavius Jacobus. "King Herod! As the Living God breathes! You were at my eldest son's bar mitzvah at Khirbat-Kharazza!" (Herod stares at him...) "Don't you remember me? We smoked Hashish behind the Wadi as my concubines...." "Oh! You were the one who beat the shit out of the Rabbinical student looking for a handout for his Yeshiva." "Yes!" "I knew I can count on Rome!" 

And Herod did go the house of Flavius Jacobus, who clothed him in tunics with golden raiment and fed him sausage and mussels, and Herod took Jacobus's daughter Doris Flavia as his wife. 

10. Herod and Jacobus sued for a meeting with the Imperial Senate to present the evidence of a Chinese invasion. 

Jacobus: "We need a lot more parchment than this." Herod: "I don't have any more." "Like fuck you don't. I know a guy." "What does a goy do for us?" "No, a guy." "He's Jewish?" "I dunno, he's a guy." "You don't know if he's a goy?" "He's a guy, I'm not paying him to daven maariv." "Well we all know goys, even in Judea." "No, I know a guy." "What guy?" "A guy who does parchments." "What parchments?" "All parchments." "No, what do you mean he does parchments?" "He knows how to handle them." "What do we need to handle parchments for? I can write, you can write..." "This guy, he knows how to fake parchments from any part of the world." "Even this part of the world? I've never seen manuscript like this before and I don't even know if this part of the world exists." "When he's done with it he'll make that part of the world real to everybody who sees the parchment." "And he's a goy?" "YES! YES HE'S A GOY!" "Ok then." "WHAT DOES THAT MATTER?" "I just thought you said goy not guy." "If you want to do business in Rome, you gotta know a guy for everything." "But the guy doesn't have to be a goy?" "NO HE DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A GOY!" "Would you rather he be a goy?" "I would rather he knows what he's doing." "Do Jews around Rome have the reputation for knowing what they're doing?"  "Nobody has a better reputation than us." "So why are you getting a goy?" "BECAUSE THIS GUY'S GOOD!" "But if Jews can do it better..." "Nobody does it better than this guy!" "What's he doing?" "I've been trying to tell you for five minutes! He's going to copy your script and make forty-nine more pages of it." "How's this goy going to do it?" "Fuck if I know, if I knew we wouldn't need a guy." "So the goyim know how to do this script and we don't?" "THIS goy knows how to do the script!" "So what would happen if a Jew figured out how to do a script like this, would you take your business to him?" "No Jew does, and it's best we don't, because if we get caught, we'll be crucified." "I wish I was a goy right now..." "Aren't you?" "What's the Antipater family gotta do to convince you all we're Jews?" "Conversations like this." 

And Jacobus took Herod to his gentile, and the gentile fabricated forty-nine separate parchments of Chinese-like calligraphied script, and together with their evidence, they approached the consular bench of Antony. 

11. And complemented on either side by Octavian and Lepidus, thus spake Marc Anthony 

"Alright Philistine, you say there's a threat, and you come to us with cloth that's clearly manufactured by some goy Jacobus knows. I have a Jew in Tyre whose document fakes are so much better than this, but I can't have myself looking weak by ignoring a threat that you obviously made up in front of all these honorable senators or else they'll exaggerate the threat themselves and stab me the way they stabbed the last guy. So you see that I have to pretend I believe you and you have to pretend I believe you when really, I don't give a shit. You're not going to get any Roman legions; Rome's soldiers will never soil themselves with Judea ever again. Instead, you're going to get a band of Gauls; don't worry, these ghouls are even bloodier than the Romans. They'd as soon fuck what they kill after they kill it as before. 

Now these mercenaries need to be financed, and they need to be financed extremely well or else they will turn on their benefactors, and that would be a shame; because in this case, the benefactors won't be Rome, they'll be a Jew, Flavius Jacobus, and your partners in Antioch. You wanted a partnership with Herod so that you could make money and declare financial independence from subsidizing Rome at a rate we dictate. Don't try to deny it. Julius figured out how you Jews work and knew how to keep you under us. So you see the little bambino next to me? His name's Octavian. He and I intend to continue that, don't we pischer? (Octavian is silent) See? He wants to keep you our friend too....

Flavius Jacobus, you made your arrangement with Herod without me? Now you're gonna pay for him without Rome. You're gonna lose so much money on this that you and your family will be Rome's puella defututa for the rest of time. And Herod, congratulations, you're King of Judea again. Were you ever before? I can't even remember. What is it you Jews say? Mayzel Tov? (Herod is silent) Oh right... it's pronounced Mazel Tov. Mazel Tov, Baruch Ha'Ba, Yasher Koyech, and may your memory be a blessing. You want to die on that mess? Go ahead Philistine, it's all yours."

In the coming years, Herod would be referred to derogatorily as The Philistine. Anyone heard repeating it would be doused in boiling water. 

13. A year and a half later, Herod's Gauls were still fighting the Hasmoneans and losing. Herod came to visit Anthony's new base camp in the Turkish region of Samosata. And thus spake Herod: 

"Divine former consul, vanquisher of Brutus and Cassius, benefactor of Judea and best friend to the Jewish people, it is a terrible burden to report these findings with such heavy heart, but a long war without Roman involvement is, so clearly to benefit of Octavian's pitiably duplicitous interest, and of no benefaction to Anthony or Rome, because Anthony's strength lies so clearly in the East with us, and Octavian does use these irresolute Gauls to undermine Anthony's position." 

And thus answered Anthony: 

"Herod, Anthony's loyalest vassal, his counsel in time of need; friend to Rome, soldier constant and true, you need not convince us of what our mind already concludes, and merely hearing corroboration from this shrewd and sensible mouth is tiding so felicitous it undermines all doubt and gives indication from Mercury himself that Fortuna shall ride Neptune's wave above Octavian and all disloyals who consort with him. You shall have two Roman legions, thousands of Syrian conscripts, mercenaries and slaves from all around the empire. All under General Sosius, a commander of greatest experience and achievement." 

14. Sosius immediately marched Herod's legions to Jericho, torched five settlements and killed all their inhabitants. He then marched upon Jerusalem which he put under siege. The legions build ramparts, During this year, Herod divorced Doris Flavia and sent her back to her father in Rome, for having gazed upon the third Antigonus's sister for many years, Mariam, he'd long conceived a dark passion. He sent three Roman soldiers to abduct her by night and bring her to his base camp, purely handled.

15. Waiting in the base camp was both Herod and Marc Anthony:

Anthony: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the lawful joining of Judea's King Herod in matrimony to the princess Mairiam!" Mairiam: "WHAT?" Anthony grabs Mariam and puts hand over her mouth: "If anyone does object, speak now or forever hold their piece." (laughter from all the guests of Herod's tent)  "Do you, King Herod, take Mairiam as your lawful wedded wife?" "I do." "In the absence of her father, whom you killed, in the absence of her brother, who will not live another month, I speak for her as the bride's guardian (Mairiam screams from underneath Anthony's mouth, everyone in Herod's tent laughs further) "Mairiam takes you as her lawful wedded husband, to obey and serve you all the days of her life, however long or short." (Mairiam screams again) "In Rome it was always customary for Jewish grooms to break a glass. I would imagine this custom is observed in Judea as well, so may we have a glass in a napkin please?" (What's a napkin? someone asks) (Herod breaks the glass) "MAZEL TOV!" Anthony: "And now I must return to Turkey immediately, but let us all leave Herod's tent so that Herod's wife may enjoy the fruits of her wedding night!" (Amid everyone shouted cheers, Mairiam screams a third time.)

16. In spite of Anthony's prediction, it has been over a month, and Rome's rampart construction progressed not an inch. Night by night, the Jerusalemites, many starving, snuck out from city walls to make attack upon Roman camp. Picking at manifold points, differing night by night, Jerusalemites killed God knoweth how many slaves and conscripts and well over a centurian's worth of Roman troops, meanwhile bribing many other soldiers, stealing food and weaponry, building walls within the city still higher than the city walls themselves. Yet every attack resulted in Romans venturing to the surrounding townships to bring back thirty Jews of all ages to crucify in view of Jerusalem's walls. All Jerusalem heard the innocent groans upon the wood. 

17. Upon the siege's fortieth day, two members of the Sanhedrin, Shemaiah and Avtalyon, advocated to let the Romans into the gates and for Antigonus to surrender. They did not convince Jerusalem to favor appeasement, but they did tell their clansmen to absent themselves from tonight's raid, because, so they lied to their kinsmen and children, Rome would kill all raiders tonight, and none would survive. 

Every day, Rome's slaves ventured into the Judean hills surrounding Jerusalem, and every day thousands of slaves carved boulders from the mountains and carried them to Roman camp. And every night, a dozen Judean guerillas carried those boulders into the city gates without Rome's notice.  

Yet without soldiers from the Houses of Shemaiah and Avtalyon, there were not enough experienced soldiers to coordinate that night's boulder operation. The next morning, these boulders were hoisted upon catapult and breached the northern wall. Roman soldiers and all their slaves and mercenaries invaded Jerusalem from the north. They immediately went upon the Temple Mount, looted all treasures, raped all women, slaughtered all priests and animals. Then they ran into the streets and began to kill all those they saw, including those who showed papers demonstrating loyalty to Rome. Thus seemed next to be the fate of all Jerusalem. 

And thus spake Herod: 

"God help me I so do love those screams.... These are screams of people who know you can stop their suffering by raising an eyebrow, and choose to do nothing because it's your pleasure.... isn't it a shame most people don't ever know what that power truly is.... I wish I could give it to them.... resurrect each one from the grave and let them stand in my place to watch others suffer so I could say to them: do you see, my friend, what it means to triumph over life and death.... they would only conclude that yes.... if I can feel so powerful, it's worth your death and the death of all you love.... because it would show them what I know - what my father knew, what Caesar knew, what Yahweh knows: that life is all a myth, suffering's a myth, meaning is a myth.... survivors of this catastrophe will tell stories of their dead to their children, parts true, parts false, but just stories.... and these stories breathe meaning from generation's life to generation, and let them know that they too suffer to a purpose just as did ancestors.... yet unknown to them is that their entire purpose is someone else's pleasure.... the stories are as worthless as life itself.... just more excrement the Romans pump from the cities along with their rivers of blood.... life is not stories, it's trash to throw out, bills to pay, pots to empty, things to insert in the front, things to dump out the back. Life is a thing, not a meaning.

DUMAH!

(a page appears) 

Here is an officially sealed document announcing that every Syrian conscript who stops this slaughter by killing another Roman soldier will be remunerated as though he were a Roman soldier if he can produce the head with the helmet still on it. Read it aloud to the Syrians and then burn the document immediately. 

("Yes your majesty.")

Oh, and Dumah?

(Yes your majesty?")

Wait another half-hour before you give it. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tales of Classical Perversion: Herod's First Day - Second Draft

  1. Thus spake Herod:


"Today is the 27th anniversary of the day Pompey sacked Jerusalem.... Why do things keep happening to Israelites on the same day as other things?.... I remember my father drinking from his Arak horn, lying in his chair, hearing the thousands of Jerusalemite screams, and feeling as though muscles relaxed in his body that he never knew were there. All of Israel wailed that day and recorded it the darkest of the many dark days in Jewish history, but records are made to be broken and so are the Jews.  

This latest Aristobulus is now in Kishle... after him there's only two Aristobuluses left and one Hyrcanus. I will send this third 'latest' Aristobulous to Anthony, who will, torture and behead him against all custom within Rome's city limits. Rome is always shocked when they hear about the barbaric things their soldiers do abroad.... but Anthony was always an animal. He loves when blood spurts even more than women. Rome will blame him for the murder. Romans are supposed to be more virtuous than us brown barbarians, and my willingness to be taught Roman ways will raise me in to the grace of that beneficence, Octavian Caesar, who fancies himself magister of his provinces just as Aristotle was tutor to Alexander."



2. Here follows the minutes of Herod's first day as governor: 


A. Herod summos his personal treasurer, Ishmael, along with his son Ananel who is to be appointed High Priest, and tells them the government coiffures will be replenished because the entirety of the Sanhedrin property and treasure will be confiscated today. 

Herod then asks "How certain are you of your family's line of descent from Aaron?" "Absolute." "In spite of everyone calling you an Ishmaelite?" "Quite positive." "Do you have documentation?" "I..." "Anthony has a scribe in Tyre who can create any script to specification. You both will ride to Tyre and give this scribe a sealed message to recreate a calligraphy to exact specifications I set, is this clear?" "Yes your grace." Dismissed. 

B. Herod received two elders who sit upon the Sanhedrin: Avtalyon and Shemaiah, whom he refers to as 'my only allies.' As gifts he presents them both with knives ornately jeweled as thanks for their efforts. Three Roman guards appear at the door immediately thereafter, and Herod tells his two allies that these men are the principales of an entire Roman centurion, all of whom will be present to help them in their task. One of them asks: "What task?"

"Soldiers will be posted as posted at every exit of the Sanhedrin chamber as their captors, but also as witnesses and assistants to what you're about to do. Roman soldiers will hold up every member of the Sanhedrin while you, Avtalayon and Shemaiah personally execute all 69 members who are not you. You are thereafter to appoint a new Sanhedrin entirely from among your family and friends. This new Sanhedrin is hereby ordered to institute a 10% tithe for every case heard." 

Herod further tells them that on the authority of his new high priest, Ananel, is descended from priests in Babylon's makeshift Jewish temple, and his appointment requires the Sanhedrin's unanimous approval. "From this day forth, all rulings which benefit the Sanhedrin are synonymous with rulings which benefit Judea." Dismissed. 

C. A visit from Mariam, unannounced but Herod assures, very much expected. Mariam claims she has a letter from Anthony, and the letter does have his seal upon it. This letter from Antony "requests" that Mariam's younger brother, Aristobulus, fourth of his name, be made High Priest. Mariam clearly expects Herod to be shocked, but Herod calmly lets Mariam know that he'd discussed this matter with Anthony at some length, and planned on conferring High Priesthood on her brother the whole time. Herod summoned Aristobulus, embraced him as the High Priest and gave him all the insignia. Still not dismissed at time of this record.



3. Aristobulus's ceremonies of investiture: Herod's First Shabbos


There are several hundred wealthy Judeans in the Temple courtyard. Herod, Aristobulus and Mariam stand upon a raised dais right outside the Holy of Holies. All three are dressed in linen robes of white. Both Herod and Aristobulus wear white turbans upon their heads. Herod speaks in heightened voice: 

Herod: "And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord

(Three Roman soldiers enter with a bull in harness, whom they bring to the top of the dais between Herod and Aristobulus.) 

"And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord:..." 

(While Roman soldiers still hold the bull, Herod places his right hand upon the bull's head, and with his left he draws from his gardle an overjeweled knife that resembles a cleaver. Aristobulus takes it, and with both hands, slices the neck of the fully conscious bull with too much might. The blood immediately splatters upon all three officiants. The bull collapses in a pool of its own blood and repeatedly attempts to stand as its vocal chords and esophagus spill out its neck. The partially disembodied vocal chords making a whistle pitched wheeze that causes a few children in the front row to cover their ears. The attempts to stand get slower, the wheeze gets quieter, the attempts to stand turn into attempts to kneel, then slide, then breathe, then the wheeze stops, then the motion stops. The bull has died. The slaughter's taken seven minutes.)

(27 priests enter the temple courtyard, each holding 49 sticks of pine. In a single file line they approach the dais, form a circle around it and place them down all at once. They exit. Enter 54 Levites in a similar single file carrying 49 sticks of fir. They form two similar circles around the dais. In turns of 27, they place the sticks of fir atop the dais. They exit.)

" and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation...."

(Aristobulus picks up two sticks of pine, smears his face with cow blood, and then paints the blood upon all the doorpost of the Holy of Holies)

And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.

(Aristobulus cuts a piece from the breast of the cow. A Roman principale hands Mariam a bowl of salt water. She holds up the bowl to Aristobulus, who dips the piece of breast into the salt water, then eats the brisket raw.)

(Enter an entire Roman centurion in single file, each carrying 49 sticks of cedar. They form four circles of 25, each places the sticks of cedar atop the the bull's pool of blood. They exit.)

"And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:"

(Enter 150 elders from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, each carrying a bail of hay. They place the bails atop the bull, atop the blood, and atop the pine, fir, and cedar.)

(A Roman principale hands Mariam a lit torch, who passes it to Herod, who passes it to Aristobulus, who lights one straw from the bail of hay atop the cow's head.) 

(Herod, Mariam, and Aristobulus step off the dais and into the crowd. Herod chants louder as the fire begins to kindle.) 

"And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord."

(To the side of the crowd, Aristobulus disrobes completely and washes the blood off in water. He walks up to the bonfire, now beginning to burn. Aristobulus nakedly throws his bloody clothes atop the fire. Mariam then puts on him his new white cassock, the bejeweled blue tunic worn above it of the High Priest, and above that his coat of many colors and crosses, and above that his white blue and red gardle, his silver breastplate, his golden clasp, and his large white skullcap.)

(The fire begins to truly blaze. Herod chants still louder)

"And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LordAnd if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:" 

(The 27 other temple priests enter single file, each holding in their right hand a string of hemp tied to a unique variety of bird, each bird suffering a broken neck, in their left hand each priest carries vials of their bird's blood. Each of them empties the vile of blood into the now mounting fire, then throw the birds in.)  

(The fire has reached a full consumation. Herod shouts at the top of his voice.)

"And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes: And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire." 

(All there stand for thirty more minutes in silence as the fire devours itself, and then dies down.)

(Herod says at the volume of a normal stage voice.) 

"It is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord." 



4. Aristobulus's Ritual Purification in the Temple's Mikvah Bath: One Hour Later


Aristobulus and Herod are alone in the ritual wash room. Aristobulus in the water, Herod standing above him: 

Herod Chants: 

"He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on." 

"Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water." 

"Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defieth the tabernacle of the Lord, and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanliness is yet upon him. This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean. And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave:" 

"O Lord, the hope of Israel! All that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters."

(Herod leaves the ritual bath room so Aristobulus can lie there peacefully and undisturbed, which he does for three seconds, whereupon a Roman soldier emerges from the water, pushes Aristobulus into the water and holds him under water sixty seconds until Aristobulus stops resisting.)

(The Roman gets out of the pool and leaves the bath house. Waiting for him outside the bath house is Herod, Shemaya, Avtalyon, Ishmael  and Ananel.)

Herod: "Right, well, we gotta do all this again next week. Get everything ready. We're gonna work all through Shabbos!"