By C.K. Garabed
Lying awake one night trying to remember the name of the winged horse of Greek mythology, I felt like Thurber who went through something similar trying to remember a town in New Jersey with two parts to its name. Unlike Thurber, I wasn’t even coming up with the equivalent of his Walla Walla or Gorgonzola. (The name of his town, by the way, turned out to be Perth Amboy.)
I suddenly latched on to the idea of Freudian analysis. I had been steeped in the reading of the subject at the time. I guess it must have been when I was working at the library, so that’s a full twenty years ago. Well, sometimes a good story takes time to gestate.
I had no great love for Freudian philosophy, probably because of its ice cold rigidity but I had to give the old devil his due. So I embarked upon my grand experiment.
I concentrated on the elusive name. Nothing! I tried again. Nothing! I knew I was trying too hard. Take it easy. Grasp at anything, however nebulous. That’s the ticket. Just like meteors whizzing by my spaceship/ Reach out! Grab anything?
Then one by one they came and this is what I got:
Paracelsus ----- Paraguay ----- Uruguay ----- Bucephalus ----- and, before you could say Joy Sigismund, there it was in all its pristine splendor: Pegasus!
Well now, it’s all out and I could get to sleep. I turned over, quite self-satisfied. Good old Siggy.
What’s the matter? Oh-oh. The thought now nagged me (and this is Part II a la Joie): How come I couldn’t remember? Do I dare probe this out? Well, the job’s not complete otherwise and I’ll never get to sleep. O.K., here goes.
PEGASUS: ----- PEG ----- GIRL’S NAME ----- MARGARET ----- the only one who comes to mind is the daughter of a neighbor of long ago ----- completely inconsequential. No doubt about it ----- PEG ----- WOODEN PEG ----- CRIBBAGE ----- LCDR. S. ______________,
A navy medical officer who liked to play cribbage, who was antagonistic to me and was instrumental in my transfer from a station I liked to one I didn’t like. I found out later that he was convinced that I was an Armenian Jew. (That would be an even tougher nut to crack than Sammy Davis Jr.’s.)
So there it was, pure and simple. I slept like a god.
THE RESURRECTION OF TABOO
Taboo, as a noun, according to my Webster’s Third International Dictionary, is defined as a sacred interdiction laid upon the use of certain things or words or the performance of certain actions, commonly imposed by chiefs or priests, and found among most races of primitive culture; the system of interdiction based upon the principle of the taboo, most highly developed among the Polynesians; similar restriction imposed by social convention.
This last corresponds to the moral system that a few generations ago kept teen-age and extra-marital sexual activity in check. Society was doing its job (not failing our young people) without recourse to the law, and so long as the older generation had the say, their wisdom and experience prevailed. But when, in their bid for greater freedom, young people had the say, folly and inexperience, under the guise of adventure and personal freedom, took over.
There was a time when children born out of wedlock were referred to as illegitimate. This was society’s taboo at work, trying to minimize such cases out of concern for the public good. Then came the reformers who saw the injustice at the individual level, and decided that there were no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents. So the stigma was partially removed. Now there is no stigma whatsoever. In fact, in some quarters, the unwed mother status is highly regarded.
All of a sudden, AIDS hits the scene and all hell breaks loose. Frantically, the proponents of liberal sexual mores begin advocating safe sex, etc. No thought is given to society’s mores of the past and their successfully keeping in check sexually-transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Even the pro-abortion, anti-abortion controversy wasn’t worth becoming a national issue in the old days.
It may be only a question of time before society perceives the value of taboo and resurrects it for the public good.
From the Word Lab
The last sentence of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (final version) runs as follows:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Now, whether it’s Raymond Massey or Adlai Stevenson reciting the above, the words “that government” near the end are pronounced as if they are tied together, giving the listener the impression that it is referring to “this nation” in the line preceding. It seems more likely that a slight pause should occur after “that’ and before “government” thereby referring to the general concept of government of the people, etc.
The Conquest of Discernibility
By C.K. Garabed
Out of the incongruous mass of depilatory events arise the ashes of astral delight; not making the more for human understanding but deciding the lengthy device of mourning for the abstruse beings inundated beyond recall. Of all the essential predicaments encountered by the force of evil, no more pretentious endowments can call forth the espoused spirit of sublimation. Whereas the captivity of long periods of responsible ascertainments can no longer claim to be presided over by irascible personages, the prolonged desire for reclamation asserts itself and in creating a pulsating stream of overt consequences, depicts a more hazardous line of activated principles. True, the more desirous we are of promulgating the ideas of terrestrial consequences the more avidly we protest the insignificance of emotional appeals, particularly where the assiduous explorer of moral values promotes the festering ideas of a latent procurer.
In another sphere of activity such immoral responses would evoke a hostile protuberance of ideas to protract the process of questionable delineaments and the deliverance of the more concerned requirements would inevitably suit the code of ethics to a more likely surrounding. Be it therefore understood that while the unknown components of an equation combining the moral values of an otherwise embodied phenomenal multitude of reproachable and erratic inhibitions irresistibly drawing on the otherwise immovable vacillations of a coordinated system could not by any stretch of scientific application be unequivocally absolute, yet there remains a positive declination of principle providing a ubiquitous solution to the unrelenting problems which manifests itself in a diabolical pursuit of the captivity of reason.
From the Word Lab
Check your English dictionary for the word smaragdine, and you'll find it means emerald in color, the basic word being smaragd for emerald. The Persian word for emerald, zumurrud, comes close, but not as close as the Armenian word zumrukhd. Inasmuch as the Greek word for emerald is smaragdi, one would be justified in presuming that the other languages borrowed from it. But is that necessarily so? In the past 20 years, philologists and linguists have come increasingly to consider that the proto-Indo-European language originated in Anatolia and spread by means of farming to Europe and India.
Once upon a time the spirit of God existed as motion. He moved within all living things and no living thing could move without him. Now it happened that there reigned a very great king who ruled all the nations of the world. Having heard of the existence of God and wishing to know if there were anyone greater than himself, the king summoned all his wise men before him and commanded them to discover for him whether or no God truly existed. The wise men withdrew into consultation to consider the king's command. They weighed the problem mightily and concluded that there was only one way to determine the existence of God and that was to examine the nature of matter. They then set up a laboratory and set to work to examine each and every kind of matter that was known in the world. In order to confine matter for examination, they had to arrest its motion, and of course the moment motion left matter so too did the spirit of God. Thus the wise men resolved the problem of the existence of God, and their findings they promptly reported to the king. The king for his part was highly pleased with the news, for had not the wisest men in the world proclaimed that there was none greater than he?
An Elegant Variation
A statistician makes use of a concept called the Variance. It is used to measure the extent that a set of given values deviate from the average of all the values in a distribution, such as test scores. As a simplified example, take the values represented by the numbers 1,2,3. The standard approach to calculating the Variance is to add the three values and divide by 3, yielding an average of 2 which is called the Mean; then subtracting the Mean from each of the three values yields –1, 0, and +1. These are then squared, resulting in +1, 0, and +1, or a sum of 2, which when divided by the number of elements (3), produces a net result of 2/3 or .667. This is the Variance for this particular distribution, which signifies how far each number deviates from the Mean.
Uncle Garabed, with his penchant for word play, has recast the method in a formula that reads: The Variance = The Mean of the Square minus The Square of the Mean.
It goes like this: The Mean of the Square 1 squared = 1 2 squared = 4 3 squared = 9 Total 14 ? 3 = 4.667
The Square of the Mean 1 2 3 Total 6 ? 3 = 2 (Mean) 2 squared = 4___
Net = .667 (Variance)
The Case for Psychogeometry
The people of this world, for the most part, fall into two categories that may be described as "circles" and "squares." Squares were more in vogue in former times when their attributes complimented them as being honest, just and straightforward. In our own times a square is considered to be angular, awkward and stiff. On the other hand it is fashionable now to be circular, that is, graceful, smooth and sophisticated.
Circles and squares have difficulty understanding each other because of the geometric nature of the ideas that govern their movements. On a point they may agree but in moving on from that point their directions diverge. A circle moves arcwise while a square moves on a straight line. The former is accused of talking in circles and the latter is admonished for going off on a tangent. Squares often side with each other and thus form solid foundations whereas circles by making only superficial contact retain their mobility. It would require the efforts of a hero of superhuman proportions to reconcile the differences that exist between the two types for even the Greeks failed at quadrature of the circle.
There is yet a third group of rare individuals possessed of another dimension in whom these characteristics combine to give a composite direction to their line of motion. These individuals might be termed "coils" or "spirals." Their immediate direction is circular but ultimately they pursue a straight line course.
Circles and squares are agreed on one point regarding the ideas of coils and that is that they are positively screwy.
The Vindication of Don Giovanni
"Analysis is Death." So say those of us who react violently to the analytical approach to art which so often debases that which was intended to be elevating.
Leonardo suffered thus at the hands of Freud. Useful analysis of the product of one man's mind can be accomplished only by the sympathetic and reverent attitude of another's.
With the hope that I may lessen the risk of bad taste that attends this kind of activity let me state that my purpose is to define the stature of Don Juan as revealed by Mozart.
"A man is either a fighter or a lover." So rings this cliche down through the ages. In effect what is meant by the statement is that either of two instincts are paramount in a man but not both equally. The instincts are those of Self-Preservation and Preservation of the Species. Fighting results in the former; loving in the latter. However, Don Giovanni happens to be a formidable hero in whom both instincts vie for prominence. As a fighter he is pugnacious. As a lover he is insatiable.
But then comes the fly in the ointment. The Don reveals himself as a true Greek hero. His pride is his undoing. So long as he relied on his instincts no one could do him in. But it is his pride that leads him to challenge the infernal forces. Let's not make the mistake of allowing for the subversion of the Don's instincts as being at the root of his ruination. What prevails in the Don is something akin to honor, though he pays dearly for it. Why, after all, does he refuse to repent in the end at the demand of the Commandant? If he were as dissolute as some would have us believe he could easily have admitted to anything to save himself.
After being convinced that he is a monumental archetype of the instinctual behavior, we are shown his demise as a result of the fatal flaw. Why, this is tragedy of the first order!
A Musical Number
Two of my favorite composers are Hector Berlioz and Gomidas Vartabed. Berlioz was born in 1803 and died 66 years later in 1869, the year Gomidas was born, who died 66 years later in 1935.
A PANDEAN IDYLL
Once upon a time there were five reeds who clustered together by the river bank. They went by the names of A, B, C, D, and E. Now A, C, and E were natural enough but D was rather sharp and B was absolutely flat. But this was because of their varying stature. Except for this they seemed to agree in all other respects and always acted in unison. The sun shone on them equally and the wind made them bend together. Theirs was a life gracefully led down by the banks of the river.
Then one day came the great god Pan prancing along by the banks of the river and in his hand he held a contrivance of pipes that he had lately fashioned. He blew on one of the pipes and emitted a mellow tone. A began to vibrate with sudden interest, "How pleasant," he said "How lovely." Then Pan tried another pipe and sounded it. C came to life with enthusiasm exclaiming, "How bright, how enchanting." Pan proceeded to intone on yet a third pipe and E awoke with vigor, "How crisp, how smart," said he. When Pan produced all three tones simultaneously, what joy A, C and E knew. Together they cried, "How grand, how wonderful." But all the time that this was going on, sharp D and flat B sat glumly by, looking on. They agreed that they could not understand what all the excitement was about. Evidently A, C and E were suffering from delusions. Just then Pan sounded two other pipes at once. The effect was immediate: B and D stiffened and started accusing each other of aggression for each seemed to have cramped the other's style, while A, C and E cringed with pain. They all fell to quarreling in the end and their cries were long bitter and sad.
Though Pan went away In his nonchalant way His marker he left O! for ever to stay And the reeds by the river Will never, no, never O! ever be happy and gay.
From The Advent of the Superman and Other Presentiments
Two Key Men in a Dead Lock
I fail to appreciate twelve-tone music Because there is no key: For me the music is enlocked; A lock that has no key is dead. Therefore, Schoenberg and I remain deadlocked.
Limericks on Shakespeare
That hoary old codger, Polonius Met an end that was unceremonious When he hid out of sight From Hamlet one night Who ran him through quite erroneous.
There was a proud Moor named Othello Who was lacking in humor though mellow; He made the mistake Of believing the fake Iago, a treacherous fellow.
A notable Caesar named Julius Behaved in a manner supercilious; Til his friends in the forum With little decorum Dispatched him with aim punctilious.
Though Shakespeare's the name on the bill, 'Tis believed that the play's not by Will; But by Bacon or Marlowe, De Vere or De Carlo, Or one with a stranger name still.
When Romeo saw Juliet On the balcony Chez Capulet His speech was erratic, But she was ecstatic, As she said, "I'm so glad that we met."
War and Poetry
Two lines from a poem by French poet Paul Verlaine served as a signal for the allied invasion of Normandy in World War II. The poem is Chanson D'automne, and the lines are:
Les Sanglots longues Des Violons De l'automne
Blessent mon coeur D'une langueur Monotone.
which translates literally as:
The long sobs Of autumn's Violins
Wound my heart With a monotonous Languor.
The French Underground, for weeks before the invasion, would intersperse a reading of the first line in radio and news weather broadcasts. When the invasion was imminent, the second line followed. And that was the signal for members of the Underground to go into action to sabotage the German war machine.
Here's a poetic translation of the entire poem:
The murmurings Of autumn's strings Bemoan
The languid sighs My heart becries Alone.
In breathless gloom Toward pending doom I creep
And fondly gaze On former days And weep.
And we are borne By ill winds' scorn To fly
Hither and brief The withered leaf And I.
The Game of the Name
When the Jews of Germany were required to adopt family surnames in the language of the rulers of the country, the Jews were free to choose whatever names they wished without restriction. Thus, family names of German Jews are poetically beautiful. We are well acquainted with Rosenberg (rose mountain), Mandelbaum (almond tree), Morgenthau (morning dew), and Blumenthal (blooming dale).
When the Armenians of Ottoman Turkey were required to adopt family names in the language of the rulers of the country, local officials often derisively stigmatized hapless Armenians with unflattering names. Thus came about family names such as, Topalian (topal = lame), Chirkinian (chirkin=ugly), Zulumian (zulum=cruel, oppressive), and Tekirian (tekir=marked with spots).
The Fourth Horseman
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a theme worthy of dramatic treatment in the creative arts, has come under inspection from other quarters as well. Most of those concerned have agreed upon the identity of the first three - Famine, War and Pestilence. The fourth horseman remains somewhat of an enigma. In our own time, an attempt was made by ex-President Herbert Hoover to delineate the character of the fourth as Revolution, a fitting name that would be in accord with the first three; but then, why a fourth? Three would have done just as handsomely, if not more so, as the principle of three is a universally accepted symbol. Furthermore, in establishing direction for an idea, the third point eradicates doubt, the fourth is superfluous. So, if we accept four horsemen, we must look elsewhere for the character of the elusive horseman. Let us look at the first three: Famine, War, Pestilence - surely these are the inevitable diseases of human society. So too is Revolution, but then we could just as well add all the vices of which humans are capable, for, after all, without society no vice could exist as such. There is Death, considered by many to be the all-encompassing character uniting the first three and embracing all that is left. This I feel to be redundant. No, I can?t help being led into an entirely different direction. I propose the following:
Famine, War and Pestilence are for the most part threats from without. It is their collective strength which gives them their awful aspect. The individual is involved, certainly, but the threat remains for the most part an objective one before which the entire race stands helpless. This poses the idea that in opposition to these objective perils there is a subjective one as well - a personal one. Is it possible to contemplate an evil that hovers within, the expression of which depends simply upon the lack of intensity of the personal will to live? I think so. You might call it a death instinct if you so choose; certainly it is related to the pressures of society in much the same way as are Famine, War and Pestilence.
This then is the name of the Fourth Horseman - Self-annihilation!
Circle of Fifths
Traditional Circle of Fifths in music involves the successive major key signatures derived from an initial vibration and its dominant overtones as follows:
C : G : D : A : E : B : F#/Gb : Db : Ab : Eb : Bb : F : C etc.
Garabed's Circle of Fifths
5 . . . _
Roman Numeral Morse Code
Colloquy on Turkey
Sherlock Holmes: I’ve been to Turkey many times under the guise of a businessman, and let me tell you, Watson, that the Doenmes responsible for the Armenian genocide are still in power. They are the leaders of government, business and industry. Dr. Watson: By Jove, Holmes! That’s quite a remarkable asseveration.
Holmes: That’s not all, Watson. I believe the time will come, perhaps not in our lifetime, when the Turks will acknowledge the Armenian massacres as genocide.
Watson: You really think so?
Holmes: Without a doubt. When the ethnic Turks take back the reins of government, they will be able to say, “Yes, there was a genocide, but it was not us!”
Watson: Do you think the current agitation for free speech on the issue has any bearing?
Holmes: Undoubtedly. Take a good look at some of the brave souls who dare to call it genocide. Do they look like Turks to you? More like Armenians or Greeks, I should think.
Watson: What a fantastic thought!
Holmes: Not so fantastic. Let every citizen of Turkey be subjected to DNA testing, and I’ll wager that the number who are found to have Armenian genes will surprise you. It shouldn’t, though, if you remember that very many children and maidens were forcibly abducted and raised as Muslim Turks.