Tag Archives | Personal

The Paragon of Animals

One of my favourite summer jobs in my college days was working at this place, Paragon Park, just four miles from where I was living in Hull, Mass. (so I could walk there when I had to). I worked there in the summer of 1984, which turned out to be the last summer of its existence. (I was bummed that in the following summer I had to work as a bagger at the Purity Supreme grocery in Weymouth instead.)

This isn’t my video, but it was taken during the time I was there:

One of the main rides I worked on was the Bermuda Triangle, glimpsed here at 0:22:

(The other two were the Ghost Train and the Tilt-a-Whirl.)

Plus this is where it was located:

Odi et Amo

I posted this in the comments section of a post by Stephan Kinsella, but I thought it was worth pulling out separately:

When I was living in the Boston area (early 80s), many subway stops still had these ancient escalators with slippery, oddly-angled wooden steps that always made me clutch the handrail for dear life. Last time I was there they seemed to be gone, though I obviously didn’t check every stop.

Those wooden escalators encapsulated everything I love and everything I find unlovely about New England in one tidy package. An aversion to the new and flashy, a determination to make do with the old until it absolutely positively cannot be used any more, like using a pencil down to the shortest nub that can still conceivably be grasped with the fingers. On the positive side, an aversion to wastefulness, a rock-ribbed reliability, and a skepticism toward the showy, shallow, and gimmicky. On the negative side, a stingy meanness and hidebound traditionalism, a cramped narrowness of perspective.

New England is in those respects – both the good and the bad – the polar opposite of southern California, my first home, where I also find much to love and much unlovely.

Maybe Montesquieu was on to something with his theory of climate as an influence on culture.

When I think about either New England or southern California, though, my feelings of love predominate over my misgivings.

Middelboe Chronicles, Part 20: Merlin and the Dragons

Continuing the theme of Celtic sorcery, and children of unknown and/or magical parentage, from Y Mabinogi and Ewenn Congar, we have Merlin and the Dragons (“Animated Tales of the World,” 2004).

This version oddly leaves out (apart from a cryptic closing reference to the modern Welsh flag) the whole point of the story, which is what the red dragon’s triumph over the white symbolises: namely, Merlin/Myrddin’s prophecy of the triumph of the Britons over the Saxons. (It also has Merlin engage in a bit more dragon-riding than I recall from the original, but I suppose that’s excusable poetic license. Leaving out the prophetic meaning is not so excusable, especially since that prophecy eventually gets linked up with the Arthur legend.)

I remember my mother reading a version of this story aloud to me (actually onto our then newly acquired cassette player, though I’m sure the cassette is long lost, and would likely be unplayable even if it weren’t) out of Helen Miller’s book The Realms of Arthur (not to be confused with more recent books of the same title) when we were living in San Diego, thus when I was between 8 and 10; I even seem to remember the section of the library where we picked it up – on the right-hand side upon entering, where I believe recent acquisitions were displayed (though whether it was the Ocean Beach library or the Point Loma library I can’t say, as we used both regularly; I’m not sure why I haven’t revisited either library on my various trips back in recent years).

SciFi SongFest, Songs 58-59

I’ll let you figure out what these two songs have in common:

58. David Bowie, “Supermen” (1970):

Another version:

59. Laurie Anderson, “O Superman” (1981):

I was first introduced to this latter song, and to Laurie Anderson’s work generally, by the psychologist Michael Commons when I was working as his research assistant at the DARE Institute in Cambridge MA during my freshman year of college.

The line “When love is gone there’s always justice / when justice is gone there’s always force” is a paraphrase of a passage from Laozi’s Daodejing, while the line “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” is a variation on the unofficial motto of the u.s. postal service, borrowed in turn from Herodotus’s description of the mail service of the Persian Empire.

À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

I’ve come across some more family documents online: my grandfather’s and uncle’s draft cards (1918 and 1942, respectively); my grandparents’ passport application and subsequent return immigration info, for their honeymoon in France (1923); and the passenger manifest for my mother and her family on their trip to Hawaii (1937). Posted here.

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