Monday, May 14, 2007

Deferral, Miscellany, Query

I have to work very early tomorrow (office supply store), so I don't have time at present for a full-length post. I'll try to put up some more later, likely in the form of thoughts on Manalive, which I've just finished reading.


In the meantime, though, four items to consider...
  • Pope reminds world that Catholic social teaching does not begin and end with sexual matters. World: "But Marxism and Capitalism are all we've got; they can't BOTH be problematic! That's just crazy talk. Which is it, Mr. Pope?"
  • An excellent essay by Fr. James V. Schall (of frequent Chesterton-studying fame) on the subject of atheism and human ethics. It's almost a year old, of course, but given the recent raft of pro-atheism books to hit the shelves its contents are just as timely as ever.
  • Prof. Richard Dawkins speaks candidly of the importance of the Bible for children, the importance of preserving institutional religion, and his love of the transcendent beauty of the universe and its creator. Just don't you dare tell him that God has anything to do with it.
  • Finally: film adaptation of Manalive coming up at some point; Mark Shea slated to play Innocent Smith. Mark already played Smith in several scenes from the book which were dramatized for the third season of (the American Chesterton Society's) Dale Ahlquist's EWTN series, The Apostle of Common Sense, so he knows how to do it. My only concern is that his head isn't small enough...


What follows is a clip from the 1943 film Stormy Weather, a song-and-dance extravaganza involving some story or other that is more or less lost in the theatrics of the thing, which are excellent. The clip itself features Cab Calloway doing his wonderful thing, only to be suddenly interrupted by the contributions of the Nicholas Bros., who, as if by magic, happen to be in the audience as he's singing, and who happen to be willing to sing with him, and who happen still further to be quite happy to help him out by contributing some astonishing rug-cutting to the proceedings while Cab's band lays it out for them. The rest, as they say, is infamy:

Now, the reason I'm posting this is manifold. Chesterton's thoughts on music and dance have always been something of a worrying mystery to me. He has frequently (though genially) mocked "the jazz" and the erratic dance styles that go with it. Apart from that, though, mostly because I haven't had occasion to read all of his many thousands of essays (alas!), I don't know what he really thought about music beyond being broadly, it would seem, in favour of it. Did he like opera? Spirituals? Did he, somehow, find something to like in jazz? I just don't know, but I'd like to. If you know, please say something.

The thing is, though, whatever the merits of jazz and swing and whatnot in relation to the great musical tradition of Europe, there is something in the proceedings here recorded that strikes me as being distinctly wonderful. This is the sort of thing that I could picture happening in one of Chesterton's own stories; a pair of men (or even just one man) in the full sobriety of modern evening dress, suddenly break with the awful dignity of such attire by launching into exuberant and vivacious dance. And those splits...!

I guess my question is this: what would Chesterton have thought of this? Do we have some precedent? Is there any way to know? My interest in this certainly comes from a general desire to further understand the man, but also largely from the interesting paradox of forms of expression and art that were once possibly considered sorts of modern madness suddenly becoming something for which we pine with a conservative nostalgia.

1 comment:

Alan Capasso said...

Now for something completely different.
After sharing this movie clip with my son (14) – always trying to broaden his repertoire of musical genres- he called me back about an hour later and replayed the video but with the Alice in Chains “Man In The Box” song as background. I know Chesterton would not approve of that music but dog-gone-it it worked. It cracked me up anyway. He may use it for his My Space vid.