Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence

10.4.09

diversionary tactics

Andrei Codrescu has performed a signal service in providing The Posthuman Dada Guide: Lenin & Tzara Play Chess (for those in NYC, events next week here), which, arbitrarily alphabetized, pulls together strands of artistic, literary and political history into a cogent gallimaufry of dada: The PhD Guide could in itself be core reading for a collage course, prompting me to pull from the shelf the MoMA Dada catalogue (despite his disdain), Tom Stoppard's Travesties (a curious frame for some excellent set pieces) and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Lenin in Zurich (last stop before Finland Station, in a sealed car detached from The Red Wheel), before hurrying to complete Thomas Nashe's Lenten Stuff in season (this last, in similar spirit, being in praise of the red herring). In appreciation, I will cavil at the missed opportunities, foremost being in not exploiting the fact that the two sports most revered in dada, chess and boxing, have merged in chessboxing; also, the omission of Sophie Taeuber in discussion of puppets (or, for that matter, of the Communist conception of their usefulness) or other mannequinistic manifestations; and of the grandmasterly virtual mechanization of chess. I'll give him a pass on sliding over the online presence of Julia Butterfly, and on space limitations preventing further explication of the language crystal, but my bemusement at the extra b Codrescu inserts in kibitz, (obscuring separate etymologies with kibbutz; in chess, an annoying onlooker giving unsolicited and often misleading advice, which often turns out to be correct, thus the chess proverb The kibitzer sees all: I've long listed my occupation, here and elsewhere, as itinerant kibitzer), was tempered when off to the OED I went, to find that the word derives from Yiddish (which I knew) from German (as I would have guessed) kiebitzen, 'to flutter over card-players', in turn from kiebitz, 'lapwing', which Graves elucidated in The White Goddess:
The Greeks called the lapwing polyplagtos, 'luring on deceitfully', and had a proverbial phrase 'more beseechful than a lapwing' which they used for artful beggars. In Wales as a boy I learned to respect the lapwing for the wonderful way in which she camouflages and conceals her eggs in an open field from any casual passer-by. At first I was fooled every time by her agonized peewit, peewit, screamed from a contrary direction to the one in which her eggs lay, and sometimes when she realized I was a nest-robber, she would flap about along the ground, pretending to have a broken wing and inviting capture. But as soon as I had found one nest I could find many. The lapwing's poetic meaning is 'Disguise the Secret' and it is her extraordinary discretion which gives her claim to sanctity. According to the Koran she was the repository of King Solomon's secrets and the most intelligent of the flock of prophetic birds that attended him.
There, I'm glad that's out in the open ... (more serendipity, the very next word in OED is kiblah, the site one faces to address the Deity, the first non-Mohammedean cite being in Stonehenge ...)

In response to Scientific American's Laughing Matters, I'll reprise my older (pre-blogging) commentary:
They say laughter is the best medicine. Now science has proved that laughing is good exercise! You know what I have to say to that? HA! That’s right, HA! I’ll bet those scientists think they’re pretty funny. I can just see them, snickering in their white labcoats: “Hey, doc! How about a sports club called ‘The Laughing Fit’?” You can believe them if you want to, but I was born a skeptic, and I’ll die a skeptic. If I die.

3 Comments:

Blogger mahendra singh said...

Thanks for alerting me to this highly interesting book! Of course, we all know that Lenin regularly cheated at chess.

On a related note, I remember that Enki Bilal described a bout of chessboxing in his Nikopol Trilogy, the final bit, Froid Équateur. That was a while back & I always thought he invented the idea but I guess not.

Still battlin' thru Paris Paysan, blame Arsène Lupin for the delay! Sapristi!

10/4/09 19:35  
Blogger nnyhav said...

I was unaware of the Enki Bilal connection (nor the others), thx! But yes the PhD Guide is must reading, whatever my quibbles; another aspect I neglected to mention was recently UbuFeatured.

I also neglected to mention last week that Roubaud is responsible for La Chasse au Snark, illustrated by Annie-Claude Martin, '81; but consider also that the first translator into French was Louis Aragon, in 1929, "shortly before he completed his transition from Snarxism to Marxism", per Martin Gardner.

10/4/09 22:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*The Greeks called the lapwing polyplagtos, 'luring on deceitfully'*
...and if the 'g' were pulled, would it matter that "(many) platos" may, likewise, be imputed to be following a similar path (although one might be forced to weigh the intentions of each plato independently, I suppose).
Your post moved me close enough to "Ph Guide" to bother my local bookseller. I'd better hurry, though, before they close. ^..^

11/6/09 14:53  

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