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John Holbo

The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss

by John Holbo on June 14, 2015

Continuing my ‘great art books I bought this year’ series, it turns out that, secretly, Dr. Seuss liked to draw cats and architecture, in a Seussian style. You can buy the book. Or just browse the gallery. Mostly it turns out the secret is: he liked color. (That’s a reason to buy the book. Nice printing.) Also, a bit more sex.

Maurice Sendak wrote the introduction, just as he did for my other new Seuss book.

Ted and I met years ago and liked each other immediately. I gave him reason to laugh mightily on more than one occasion when I launched into one of my “wacky” (his word) subtext theories relating to my favorite Seuss books. I was a product of fifties psycho-analysis, and he forgave me that and my terrible earnestness.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall as an earnest young Maurice Sendak expounded his theory of Green Eggs and Ham. “I would not, could not, in the dark.” Hey, sometimes a tunnel is only a tunnel.

Tomm Moore and Harry Clarke

by John Holbo on June 6, 2015

My hand-drawn post drew a bit of interest. Folks seemed to think I should be talking up Tomm Moore’s films a bit more in this connection: The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. This is very true. I think Song of the Sea was my favorite film, last year.

And one of my favorite art books from last year was Designing the Secret of Kells. Which is sold out everywhere by now. Sucks to be you.

But let me console you with some alternative, Irish flat-style animation. [click to continue…]

Hand-drawn!

by John Holbo on June 3, 2015

Complaining about conservatives is well and good, but I’m a conservative about anything true and good, so I love animation – so long as it is hand-drawn, the way God and Walt and the Nine Old Men intended!

I have actually made myself (mildly) depressed (for a few minutes) thinking that Tangled might be the end of the big studio production hand-drawn line, in its hybrid CGI-way. You can’t fight progress.

So it’s nice to know I was wrong. Maybe. This looks fantastic. Such a wonderful Chuck Jones-y-ness, a Maurice-Nobleity, with an Eyvind-Earliness, especially in the morning light.

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Not to mention the Carl Stallingness of the music.

The design for the little girl slays me.

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The Counter-Enlightenment as Gotcha!

by John Holbo on June 3, 2015

It’s hard to find time to blog when one of your hobbies is reading Rod Dreher. Dude doesn’t stop!

Where to start, where to start? Dreher, like a lot of conservatives, is aghast at the Kipnis case. [click to continue…]

Peter Gay Has Died

by John Holbo on May 13, 2015

New York Times obituary.

I guess I’m the one who should make this little post, since for the last couple weeks I’ve been talking, a bit, about his classic book, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider. I didn’t know very much about the man, myself, before reading his obit this morning. I haven’t really thought much about his legacy – how much of what he wrote was valid, or is still valid in light of subsequent historiography. But he has had an influence on me. In sophomore (?) year of college I heard about him from a Freudian psychology prof. I struggled through The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. It was maybe the first ‘proper’ intellectual history I read. I found it fascinating. But I had such screwy ideas at the time that the details didn’t really stick. Maybe I should go back and give it a reread in honor of the man. Well, maybe not the whole thing …

Any thoughts about Peter Gay?

This will be the final installment in my ‘were the Nazis right-wing and, if so, why were they socialists?’ series (part 1, part 2).

This final post will consist mostly of a long passage from a chapter titled, ‘The Conservative Dilemma’, from Conservative Revolution In The Wiemar Republic, by Roger Woods. But I’ll frame it with a few general thoughts.

Before we get to the passage, the thing you should know is that ‘Conservative Revolution’ is not a tendentious title – some sinister liberal attempt to slap ‘conservative’ onto a bunch of Nazis (who were radicals, not conservatives!) Or if it is semantically tendentious, it isn’t the author’s fault, just because it seems like an flagrant oxymoron. German nationalists, from 1918 on, used the phrase ‘die Konservative Revolution‘. It was the proper, often self-applied name of a literary/intellectual movement.

In 1937 Thomas Mann wrote: [click to continue…]

In What Sense Were The Nazis Socialists?

by John Holbo on May 4, 2015

Socialism! That is really an unfortunate word.

– Adolf Hitler (quoted in Dietrich Orlow, The Nazi Party 1919-1945: A Complete History, p. 88

When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported Fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity. What a crew! Think of a programme which at any rate for a while could bring Hitler, Petain, Montagu Norman, Pavelitch, William Randolph Hearst, Streicher, Buchman, Ezra Pound, Juan March, Cocteau, Thyssen, Father Coughlin, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Arnold Lunn, Antonescu, Spengler, Beverley Nichols, Lady Houston, and Marinetti all into the same boat! But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings.

George Orwell

I was going to try to get good old Montagu to contribute a personal note about his own fascist flirtations, after his long and unaccountable absence from the blog. No dice.

So I’ve solicited some commentary from Oswald Spengler, at least. [click to continue…]

It’s Nazi week at Crooked Timber! Do you love thrilling stories about Nazis? Great! [click to continue…]

What Did Pippin Tell Denethor?

by John Holbo on April 18, 2015

I’m reading The Lord of the Rings to our daughters. (Famous trilogy of fantasy novels, in case you’ve been in a coma since 1953 and are just checking Crooked Timber to see what’s new.) Last night we began The Return of the King. One thing that happens at a couple points is our heroes narrate the tale of their travels to someone they meet, without fully revealing the true nature/purpose of the Fellowship (Merry and Pippin when they first meet Treebeard; Frodo to Faramir; Pippin to Denethor). Obviously Tolkien summarizes his way past these points, since the reader doesn’t need to hear it all again. But it’s impossible to imagine what Pippin actually said. He couldn’t tell Denethor 1) they’ve got the ring; 2) the goal of the fellowship; 3) the existence/identity of Aragorn; 4) the meaning of ‘Isildur’s Bane’.

‘Now tell me your tale, my liege,’ said Denethor, half kindly, half mockingly. ‘For the words of one whom my son so befriended will be welcome indeed.’

Pippin never forgot that hour in the great hall under the piercing eye of the Lord of Gondor, stabbed ever and anon by his shrewd questions, and all the while conscious of Gandalf at his side, watching and listening, and (so Pippin felt) holding in check a rising wrath and impatience. When the hour was over and Denethor again rang the gong, Pippin felt worn out. ‘It cannot be more than nine o’clock,’ he thought. ‘I could now eat three breakfasts on end.’

So here’s your challenge. What did Pippin tell to the shrewd Denethor for an hour? Narrate the tale of how and why Pippin and three other hobbits left the Shire in haste, traveled to Rivendell, Lothlorien, etc., without mentioning any of the things he has promised Galdalf he won’t. Here’s my best shot. Pippin tells Denethor ‘Isuldur’s Bane’ is some sort of exotic brand-name pipeweed Elrond is looking to score. He knows hobbits are into pipeweed, so he sent for them from the Shire. But they didn’t have any. So he sent them out to score it for him, and someone heard maybe there was a dealer in the Mines of Moria. But that didn’t work out. Meanwhile, Saruman and Sauron have this wrong idea that the hobbits are themselves pipeweed dealers, since orcs overheard them asking around after ‘Isuldur’s Bane’, and so …

If you’ve got a more plausible, false explanation for the Fellowship, I’d like to hear it. Pippin must be one hell of a liar.

Religious liberty and the Romance of Orthodoxy

by John Holbo on April 9, 2015

“This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.” – G.K. Chesterton

Long post, hastily hammered. I’m hammering, specifically, a Rod Dreher post, since (I admit) I have become quite addicted to watching him chew the theological scenery re: the Indiana stuff. But, in criticizing, I’m not just piling on with more pizza parlor people snark, I hope. I think he’s confused, but what he says does raise interesting issues. I will attempt to be only mildly sarcastic around the edges, in the hopes of good conversation all round.

Dreher writes: [click to continue…]

Ow, a bee stung me!

by John Holbo on April 5, 2015

We have a saying in the Holbo-Waring household. “Ow, a bee stung me!”

red_bee_comics

You say it if you have just utterly failed to foresee a wildly foreseeable but minor injury.

I nominate Mike Pence for the role of the guy who got stung by a bee, in the Indiana RFRA controversy. [click to continue…]

It would explain a lot

by John Holbo on March 27, 2015

The daughter: So, was J.R.R. Tolkien saved by eagles in W.W. I?

I shall abhor you

by John Holbo on March 26, 2015

Do you ever wonder what a Wes Anderson horror film would be like? I have a good idea for one. It’s set in 1963, in a junior high school in Auburn, California, birthplace of “the bard of Auburn”, Clark Ashton Smith. An over-ambitious junior high drama director (Jason Schwartzman), in a misguided attempt to make the English teacher (Gwyneth Paltrow), fall in love with him, is staging an 8th grade production of Smith’s The Dead Will Cuckold You.

This is a truly unique play, in the Zothique cycle. I’m saving this Zothique zinger for some special occasion in comments, so be on your toes: [click to continue…]

Ancien Régime Turkophile Destroyed By Magnetizers?

by John Holbo on March 15, 2015

Having made one recent post that topped 1000 comments, I thought I would try to be more abstruse for a time.

I have a trivia question for you. I’m reading Volney’s The Ruins. Why? Because it’s one of the books that Frankenstein’s monster overhears: [click to continue…]

Weirdies

by John Holbo on March 10, 2015

I haven’t been posting, so I figure I should show my work – that is, establish that I’ve been toiling on some sort of important intellectual project behind the scenes.

So here’s the thing. I always figured Jack Kirby just made up ‘weirdies’ – like he invented most things that matter to us today: [click to continue…]