Tag Archives: absurdism

Alice in Wonderland

Speaking of Marc Jacobs, he is featured in one of the best Vogue portfolios of all time, from the December 2003 issue. It features Natalia Vodianova as Alice, and showcases frocks from Chanel, Versace, Gucci, and Lacroix to name a few. I love how Vogue incorporated the designers themselves into the story – Galliano as the Queen of Hearts, Tom Ford as the White Rabbit, Jean Paul Gaultier as the Cheshire Cat, Viktor + Rolf as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Christian Lacroix as the March Hare, and my beloved Marc Jacobs as the Caterpillar (I had this picture of him hanging up in my closet for years).

Here’s the shoot in its entirety (photographed by Annie Leibovitz).

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“And yet…as a race, they’ve developed no baking skills…”

I was watching This is Spinal Tap this weekend and it reminded me of the fact that my favorite part isn’t actually even in the official version of the movie. It’s one of the deleted scenes, where the band goes to the zoo and gets into a discussion about apes:

“They’re not a race though, they’re a genus.”
“Well, some of them are smarter than others…”

Miniature Radioactive Godzilla: The Musical

godzilla

Possibly my favorite quote of all time comes from a book called Live From Earth by Lance Olsen:

“You wanna hear a new poem?” he asked. He took out a crumpled scrap of paper from his back pocket and read a poem about a dentist fighting a miniature radioactive Godzilla in the mouth of one of his patients. Every time the dentist would try to drill the monster to death it would slink behind a tooth, so in the end the poor patient had a mouth full of holes and raw nerves, plus the monster which finally ran down his throat…*

I read Live From Earth over the course of several lunch hours in grade 11 (when I didn’t feel like going down to the caf and socializing, I would curl up in a corner of our school library with a book). It is quite an odd little novel, and probably the greatest regret of my high school career is that I didn’t steal it before I graduated. I was completely taken with the idea of this Godzilla running around in a patient’s mouth at the dentist’s office. But I wished that Lance Olsen had included the actual poem itself. I always wondered how it went. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I imagine it as a lengthy, epic tale — a sort of poetic equivalent of Ahab vs. Moby Dick (with the patient representing the crew of the Pequod).

On the other hand, I was pondering it the other day and visualizing it as more of a rock opera – a contemplation on the themes of society, man vs. beast, and dental hygiene, set to music:

Patient:

“Tiny monsters are quite rare —
You don’t see them just anywhere.
It seems my luck has headed south,
For one has popped up in my mouth!
My dentist, he is quite perplexed,
And I myself am feeling vexed.
When shall this tribulation pass?
I think I need more laughing gas…”

Godzilla:

“Though I possess good looks and grace,
I’m hunted by the human race.
Misunderstood — alas, that’s me,
But I’m a decent guy, you’ll see!
I’ll stop tormenting this poor man,
Run down his throat, that is my plan…
Please don’t shed a tear for me –
There’s honor in nobility.”

I don’t know, you guys. I feel like the possibilities here are endless. How fun would it be to stage this show?

*Olsen, Lance. Live From Earth. Ballantine Books, 1990.

Jabberwocky

lewis carroll

I was never a huge fan of poetry. When I had to study it in high school and college (you can’t really complete an English Lit degree without having to read at least some poetry — believe me, I tried) I remember rolling my eyes and thinking it was all so dense and inaccessible. Prose just always made more sense to me. You say what you mean and you mean what you say.

As I got older, though, I started to develop an appreciation for poetry. Sometimes verse can paint an amazingly vivid picture, and convey a mood or a setting just as effectively as a lengthier block of prose. I love the fragmentation of ideas that poetry allows for. Sentences don’t need to be finished, the completion of thoughts is not a requirement. The reader will still glean meaning, with perhaps more room for imagination and spontenaity than prose can provide. Poetry can be both playful and profound, in the right hands (or pen, as the case may be).

One of my very favourite poems, in fact, is probably the ultimate example of nonsense verse. With ‘Jabberwocky’ Lewis Carroll literally invented words out of thin air and strung them together to create his poem, but even though probably 50% of the lines are total gibberish you still get a completely vivid sense of what is happening in the narrative. Here is the poem:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought–
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Here are my favorite terms: ‘vorpal sword’, ‘manxome foe’, ‘uffish thought’, and ‘frabjous day’. Each one of these combines a nonsense word with a real word, and even though vorpal, manxome, uffish, and frabjous don’t mean anything, you know exactly what they mean — or, at least, you have a reasonably good idea. You can use your imagination to project onto these words whatever images make them sensical to you.

My favourite line has always been: ‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?’ I don’t know why, exactly. It has a nice ring to it, and I like how Carroll uses very formal language here to inject a sense of earnest gravitas amongst all the absurdism. The entire poem, really, is both silly and solemn at the same time. Like much of life.