How Did Seneca Really Die?

Who was Seneca? My over educated girlfriend kind of remembered him. I called another Abiturient and he could only provide a vague explanation of who the man was. Then I went to my elderly German neighbor who lives above me and asked if he knew who Seneca was. He stared at me for a long, dull moment. Waiting for an answer, I listened to the Altbau house crack and creak as I stood in his doorway; a bird whistled something outside the stairwell window and my dog, Samuel Beckett, was barking that I return home to feed him. Finally my neighbor broke down and said:
“Yeah, I know who he is. Give me some of that rum that you gave me the last time you wanted to know something and I’ll tell you more.”
Hiccup.
“I’m writing this pseudo-essay about Seneca’s Tod (Seneca’s Death) by Peter Hacks. It’s a three act play,” I explained to my aging neighbor.
“Peter … who?”
“Peter Hacks. Never heard of him?”
“Uh…”
I jogged down the stairs and grabbed a bottle of rum and my dog who was chewing on a Steiff zebra that we named Godot and went back to my neighbor. Sitting on his couch in the living room my neighbor showed-off his ambidextrous abilities. With one hand he poured the rum into two glasses, with the other hand he petted Beckett. I starred at the pictures of his girlfriend and family on the wall. He’d been with the same woman without marrying for over forty years. Between all the black & white pictures of his true love were the shots of his father in Wehrmacht uniforms, a few shots of his dead dog “Smiley” and his mother.
Gulp.
My neighbor filled me in on all he knew about Seneca and by three 3 pm I was wasted and my neighbor was just getting started.
“Do you want to know more about Stoicism,” my neighbor asked.
Gulp. Gulp.
“Maybe,” I said. “Is there anything exciting about Stoicism?”
“Exciting?” he said.
Disappointed and wobbling I grabbed Samuel Beckett and headed back to my apartment. Then I searched through some of my old papers, I mean really old papers, and found “The Pumpkinification of Claudius.” Yeah, I thought. I totally forgot about that. Seneca wasn’t just a boring, opportunistic dip from two thousand years ago. He was actually a pretty funny guy. Alone the title: The Pumpkinification of Claudius. Isn’t that hilarious…
Hiccup.

After reading Senecas Tod (Seneca’s Death) by Peter Hacks there was only one thing I wanted to know about the play. How accurate was Hacks regarding the events portrayed? In certain literary circles it seems like a sport to interpret the life and death of the stoic philosopher Seneca. But was Hacks a sports writer? My drink-like-a-fish neighbor didn’t offer much more than I already knew about Seneca. But I liked to go to him about historical questions and he was great source for getting rid of the booze that I have grown scared to drink. He is the type of guy that knows a great deal about history and things – but, he isn’t, like most other Germans, over-educated. That is, he doesn’t have an Abitur, he’s just well read. Unfortunately, the only thing my neighbor helped me with this time was to acquire yet another headache.

Call me a stickler for things redundant. After reading Ein Gespräch im Hause Stein…, Adam & Eve, Prexaspes, I was starting to feel what we call in America “gun-shy” about reading another Hacks play. I thought: I need a break from this communist krapp. Didn’t this guy write anything other than propaganda? Doesn’t he have expanded horizons or something? I also thought that reading another play by Hacks might awaken (anti) communist nightmares embedded in my subconscious. Like when I was in seventh grade at John Hancock Middle School. Even today when a certain bell rings I get down on the floor, put my head under a desk and pray that if the Russkies arrive they don’t torture me into communist submission.

Putting the communist stuff aside, and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post(s), Hacks is a great writer, but there seems to be an issue (for me) regarding his choice of subject(s). With this play I feel more comfortable than ever asking the question: As a twentieth century “classic” writer can Hacks write with any historical accuracy? The thing is, if he doesn’t write accurately, that is, with a bit of concern regarding historical fact, then, as a courtesy, he should at least let us know that what he’s writing is something attributable to… I don’t know… free interpretation?

Hacks’ Seneca is a strange play, indeed. I can’t figure out exactly what this play is supposed to be about. Is it a play about death? Is it a play about a philosopher and his reasoning of death? Is it about Hacks proving how well he can write? Is it about a middle-class, bourgeois Klugscheißer (smart-ass) Greco-Roman whose luck has run out? I don’t know.

Although it doesn’t have it in the subtitle, I think this play is the best example yet of one of Hacks’ classic plays being a comedy. I’m starting to wonder if the publisher/printer of this collection of plays I have made a mistake by subtitling Adam & Eve a comedy. I didn’t think that was a comedy, at all. Of course, this could also be Hacks’ style. I mean, funny dialog doesn’t make a play a comedy. Or? Although I found Seneca to be as difficult to read as Prexaspes (damn German classic rhyme!) it was less difficult to follow but at least there are puns on philosophy throughout.

There is something missing for me in this play. Like some of the intrigue and frivolity of Seneca’s life. Here’s a little of what I know about Seneca. He was probably one of the best examples ever of a philosopher who was a pig-headed, spoiled rotten, failed political opportunist. He was nothing more than a born in the right place, over-educated, Klugscheißer, and if it weren’t for his rhetorical abilities he’d be an honest-to-goodness miracle simply because of how long he was able to talk his way out of death. And Peter Hacks almost captures that in this play. Almost!

(Keep in mind: the following translated text is what will be known as Tommi-translation. In other words, take it with a grain of salt.)

Seneca: So it is ordered. I want the evening cheerful. Bet it works? Two guests, no more, each guest desired.
Nikodrom (Seneca’s chamberlain): It is not two guests, it’s three and one is undesirable.
Seneca: Who is the third you mean?
Nikodrom: Death.
Seneca: With that one the wise man is never in touch. He may search where he’s welcome but not with me.
Nikodrom: And when he arrives uninvited?
Seneca: I go.

Go where?

I don’t know what it is. My only guess is that sometimes authors, by rewriting stuff, forget things. Either that or in order to make something theatrical they have to leave a lot of the good stuff out. In this play Hacks leaves out a lot of the really good stuff regarding Seneca. Sure, the play is beautifully written but… Why not have great writing AND a great story? (I’m trying to stay away from blaming communism here. That’s right: the communists don’t want Hacks writing the real story behind Seneca’s Death.)

For example, Seneca had his first run-in with a death sentence during the reign of Caligula. And do you know how he got out of that? Get this! He weaseled his way out of death by faking an illness. Caligula thought he was going to die anyway. Talk about a Klugscheißer! And it doesn’t stop there. If Seneca was such a smart guy – you know, with being a “philosopher” and all that – then I’m sure he was able to talk his way out of Nero thinking he partook in the Pisonian conspiracy? Actually, do we really know for a fact that that’s why Nero condemned Seneca to death?

Another bit of juice that is missing from Hacks’ free interpretation of Seneca is that Seneca was Nero’s teacher when Nero was young. Wouldn’t there have been some kind of personal connect that Nero had to Seneca? There are numerous accounts of Seneca politically saving-face for Nero throughout his reign. Oh, and what about the volunteering of Seneca’s wife to join her husband in death? Nero nipped that idea in the bud. Why?

So what is the real reason Seneca died the way he did? Here’s where Hacks seems to get the story right. Based on historical facts, Seneca was ordered by Nero but failed at killing himself by simply slicing open his veins. He was too old and his blood didn’t flow. So he put himself in a hot vat of water thinking that would help the blood flow. The reality is a hot bath does the opposite. Seneca eventually died after a long and horrible, asphyxiating death. Yet Hacks has Seneca battle rhetorically with his publisher regarding the fees of his new book. And that’s pretty comedic! I guess.

OK. Hacks is a cynic. And why not be a cynic when you are restricted in what you can and cannot write. Of course, if I had the opportunity I’d be a cynic about Seneca, as well. The guy was most likely nothing more than a jerk. In fact, when I was first reading about him it was at the time when Joschka Fischer’s star was rising on the German political horizon. Of course I didn’t compare the two as philosophers; instead I compared them as opportunists. Yes. May opportunity blossom for all of us! (Btw, at the time I was also comparing Fischer to Diogenes who prayed to dog shit and lived in a bucket.)

Obviously my expectations were high when I started reading this play. I was hoping to learn something new about Seneca. Ironically, the most interesting character in this play was the “Maurer” (a mason or bricklayer). He only has a few lines of text in each scene, yet I couldn’t help but focus on him. Throughout the play this character confronts, intellectually, a “philosopher” and he does so while pushing a wheelbarrow, either empty or full, right through the scenery and/or Seneca’s living room. The metaphor behind this is obvious. As the Maurer constantly interrupts, Seneca asks why he doesn’t go around the house. The Maurer uses a kind of working man’s logic to argue with Seneca that such a thing wouldn’t be logical. I thought that was hilarious. But this isn’t a comedy, right? It’s just a drama about a guy who kills himself in a tub. I guess.

In closing (this pseudo-essay) and for those interested, here’s my theory of why Seneca had to die. This is part of the plot-premise I wanted to use when I wanted to write a play about Seneca so many years ago. Btw, I was highly motivated by “The Pumpkinification of Claudius”.

Seneca was sentenced to death because of Christianity. It was Christianity that would put the fire under Nero’s belt and make him turn against his teacher. Some even believe that Seneca corresponded with St. Paul. But I like the idea that Seneca was actually converted by St. Paul. At the least, the opportunistic “stoicism” practiced by Seneca certainly fits well with the materialist values of Christianity. On top of that, if Paul did get to Seneca then Seneca, knowing what he knew about Nero, might have believed he was living under the rule of the anti-Christ, which many early Christian scholars believed was Nero.

Oh well…

Rant on.

-tgs-

PS Keep in mind that if anyone steels my premise above and writes a play using it, VAT publishing is going to come and break your legs with a baseball bat. ;-)

The Proletariate United. At Around 522 B.C.

Mr. Hacks has a knack for taking me waaaaay back. In the last play of his that I read he took me back to a time that I’d rather forget, and although I was a bit critical of it, I enjoyed reading “Adam and Eve”. But what about Hacks’ ability to make me think of things more directly connected to my/our past? Does this mean that I’m actually starting to like him? Could I like someone that so obviously represented something that I also despise? Or, could this all be a puberty-like love/hate fest? There are moments where I’m pulling my hair (I don’t even have any) out regarding Hacks – despite his political stance. I keep thinking: is he a great writer on the one hand or a mediocre writer who makes bad subject matter choices on the other hand?

I get all these opposing/contradictory thoughts while reading Hacks. I’m sure to a large extent it has to do with my prejudices. I’m especially prejudice against understanding the origin of man. What an unworthy subject – yet Hacks tickled my fancy with Adam and Eve. But then again, Hacks wasn’t (quite) writing about the origin of man. Or?

Based on the last two plays I’ve read, I’m sure Hacks would disagree with almost everything I say. No, he would go further than a simple disagreement. He would probably say that the origin of man is complex and full of mystery and waiting to be tamed – just like man. If I said to Hacks that creation is presupposed by man’s demise, would he even bat an eyelash? Probably not. He would turn away and mumble something condescending as only a Prussian can and then go about his business of writing something where he skillfully hides (his) ideology.

With that in mind, and since I’m not a fan of ideology, I suppose I should say something about the origin of man – simply because Hacks makes me think. I guess. (Here’s the advantage of being an independent, freelance writer.)

Why do some people still think that evolution has something to do with the origin of man? Why not change gears a bit and move beyond what we THINK we KNOW? Has there ever been a paradigm change in humanity since, I don’t know, since some whacked-out tyrant started thinking about what’s best for those who don’t think? I guess, what I’m getting at is, man should finally move beyond being reactionary dunces and try to be something that is a step ahead of the earthly animal kingdom’s most successful predator. And he should do so with the utmost openness and transparency. (So much for Tommi pseudo ideology!)

And it doesn’t stop there. Hacks makes me think of more. Like… how about a paradigm shift regarding human behavior that would require man to be liable for his/her doings? Such a happening would require an awakening of consciousness regarding the ills that surround everything. Right? If the smartest, the richest, the luckiest of society are unable to see through their/our own egocentric ways what’s left for the rest of us? That is, what’s left for those of us who cannot afford our egos?

I’ll tell you what’s left. Fun. Entertainment. Show reels. Naked breasts. Technology. The willingness to subject ones self to the whims of social and political systems that consistently perform contrary to the best interests of … man. Etc., etc.

So why, in the creative thunderstorm that is real/true writing – which Peter Hacks absolutely possesses – would he regurgitate what’s already been done? The GDR didn’t ban all of Shakespeare, did it? And what about other Euro classics from Büchner to Schiller, from Voltaire to Moliere? Was there some personal vendetta Hacks had to prove that he could write with the best of them? I don’t think so. I think… Mr. Hacks saw a niche where he could cheat his way into spreading the/his message.

The thing I’m really starting to like about Peter Hacks is that, after only reading a few of his plays, I feel confident that my presumption, before even having read any of his work – just knowing/hearing about who/what he was – was correct. I could/can see through his facade based on media driven hearsay. Even if he goes down in history as only an interesting (pseudo)communist writer, at the least he deserves to be accredited as one of the greatest propagandists that ever put ideology to paper.

On the one hand, Peter Hacks writes in a kind of classic style that reminds me of other classics. Then, on the other hand, right in the middle of a scene, he throws in all these words and phrases that don’t quite fit that classic style (more on that in a sec) – or they don’t fit into the time that this play is taking place. Talk about being thrown for the proverbial loop. Remember, I’m a failed playwright. If there’s anything that I possess as a failure, it is the ability to see through the intentions of others. Just because one is a failure doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have the same experience as the winners. In fact, failure enables one to see quite a bit further and with much more focus regarding what “winning” is about. Or?

Reading Hacks is not helped by my knowledge of z’ Germans. Hacks, for one, was a Prussian. For those unaware, it was the Prussians that created/enabled the German obsession with Ordnung – a burden that Germans will probably never be rid of. It was the Prussians that enabled/created the/a military the world admired – at least up to the Wiemar experiment. And it was the Prussians that created the sour-puss faces that almost all Germans today wear as they walk down the streets of luxury-misery-ville which is lined with too many state subsidized company cars, high life-style expectations and too much paid vacation. I guess, in a strange kind of way, it is also the legacy of the Prussians that keep unoriginal German industry in business and the third (fourth?) largest economy in the world blind to the realities of what Globalization is really about.

I suppose I should stop reading Hacks. I seem to know what each play is about even before I finish the first act. Yet something motivates me to keep on reading. Perhaps it has more to do with my obsession of hating communists and communism – because ultimately that seems to be where Hacks takes me. (Yes. He takes me to the Hate. And I use the word “hate” rather loosely. Hate should be used for flesh hungry tigers or sharks that try to eat you. Tame and weakly communist don’t quite deserve the word hate. In fact, they deserve as little attention as possible. Still, I apologize for not finding the right word(s).)

What’s becoming more and more obvious about Hacks is that he might have been the former East Germany’s greatest propagandist writer. If Soviet communism would have made it and if it would have had some form of industrialized advertising (like the west currently has), then I’m sure Hacks would have gone down in (that) history as something like a god. In fact, he might have been the entire Soviet block’s greatest propagandist. When I recently heard on the German news about the success of the “Links” party in the West I didn’t cringe like I usually do. Instead I laughed and felt Hacks turning over in his grave. At the same time I was right in the middle of reading Prexaspes, a classic play written in the 20th century that could easily be compared to works from the 15th, 16th or 17th century, but with a slight and heavy twist of all things idealistic.

Yes. A play set in a comfortable time prior to Jesus but with enough connect to justify it as being more than a mystically driven copy of a Greek or renaissance drama. The justifying connect? The Order of The Magi. You remember the Magi, don’t you? Those whacked-out dudes who traveled only by night in search of the one born under a certain star that would lead mankind out of tyranny? In fact, the Magi are so important to our history that it’s no wonder in a world that strives for ever higher forms of intellectual and industrial superficiality that we’ve taken what we are told about them for granted. Or at least we’ve forgotten about them beyond their slight mention in biblical text. I mean, come on, do you really believe that there were only three of them that visited/sought-out the Christ child?

Hacks has the Magi rule Persia in his play. It’s around 522 before the birth of Jesus. There is a faction of Persia that wants to overthrow the Magi. The faction wants to replace the Magi with something more… Well, I’ll just go ahead and say it. The faction wants to replace the Magi (capitalism) with the/a collective (communism). Of course, Hacks doesn’t write that specifically. And, thank goodness, ultimately, at the end of the play, those fucking commies fail. But if you read the text closely, if you don’t pay attention to the drops of Gin or Vodka falling on your chin as you read it, you will see as I did that Hacks pulls out another trick from his bag of ideological- expression. Ironically, in this play, which I think was written before 1970, his ideology doesn’t win. In fact, it clearly loses and I wonder if the timing of this play has anything to do with the “election” of Eric Honecker. This play could be Hacks admitting that, no matter what, when it comes to things idealistic, there is only failure.

The plot of the play Prexaspes is atypical Shakespearean or Greek: kings/rulers maintaining their power via the weaving of family/friend intrigue. Hacks’ classic style of writing is so convincing that at times I even thought about how much I disliked having to read King Lear over a single weekend and then producing a ten thousand word review for Eng 400 before Monday afternoon. You see, that’s another way that hacks takes me waaaay back. At least I don’t HAVE to produce 10k words on this play.

As mentioned above, there was something else that caught my well-trained eye while reading this text. Out of nowhere, suddenly, either right in the middle of a classically written speech or other stimulating dialog, Hacks uses terminology that didn’t quite fit into the time in which this play takes place. But who am I to judge? Hacks is a “writer” and so he writes. Right? But do the examples below really fit into 522 B.C?
1)“Volk von Persien, in diesem Augenblick, da du ohne König bist, bist du selbst König.” (People of Persia, at this moment when you are without a king, you are your own king.)
2)“Vertrauen des Pöbels verwandeln wir unsere Schwäche in Stärke.” (Trust from (underclasses) changes our weaknesses to our strengths.)
3)“Genossenschaftsfelder.” (The fields, as in farming, that are worked by “comrades”.)

Examples like the above are all over this play – and yet one must constantly remember that it takes place prior to Jesus Christ – who was/could have been the first communist. Right? If such writing doesn’t ring of Soviet propaganda… I don’t know what does? I suppose to make it more obvious, Hacks could have put some directions at the beginning of the play besides the minimalist and/or obligatory time setting of when it takes place. He could have put stage and costume direction that included black & white imagery of a hammer and sickle or farmers standing above perfectly manicured lands producing mega tons of grain. My only question is: what would/could Hacks really write if he weren’t obliged to submit his creative talents to a predestined failed ideology?

As brilliant as he writes, in my mind, Peter Hacks is a failed writer. And that is why I will continue to read him. I am beginning to adore him for exactly such failure. I’m not afraid to admit that I adore failure. The world we are forced to live in certainly can use more of it. I’m not talking about the status quo fail-upwards that is rewarded so graciously these days in the form of career or inheritance. Nor am I referring to the compulsive labor force that labels what it does “work”. No. I’m talking about the honest-to-goodness failure from which Man has never been able to rise above and is perpetuated simply because it is more profitable.

I am able to identify with Peter Hacks at this level of failure. And let me reiterate: it’s not his writing, per se, that is a failure. It is his choice of subject matter that is a failure. Obviously, today, we can look back at the results of Marx and Stalin and judge it all. I cannot help but feel that as a writer, as an artist – someone who by the merit of “work” was/is different than the norm – that Hacks should have seen and accepted the coming of the end. But then again maybe he did see it coming – and yet he still wrote on in the affirmative, he stayed in that krapp hole of nothingness known as the GDR, and he wrote for and about the ideology that was its/his substance. I kind of admire that. It’s as though I’ve discovered a new tangent in the/my world of failure.

I suppose for some – you know, like Gregor Gysi, Lafontaine, most of those tree hugging suckers known as The Greens – that what I’m trying to say here about the Soviet’s greatest propagandist is that there is no hiding failure. You can publish “success” just about anywhere and get away with it. As the west is currently doing. But real failure…? You have to create huge amounts of fiction around failure to make it last. And Das Volk loves it. You have to shinny it up and stick fancy car labels on it or make it all seem digitally virtual. At the least, like his beliefs or not, the world needs more of Peter Hacks.

Continuing on the failure theme and also allowing a bit of writing indulgence on my part, I’d like to say a few more things about my beloved topic. The thing that contradicts me with Hacks is how I embrace failure. Obviously Hacks was unable to accept his (ideological) failure. I even read in an article that Hacks thought that “force” should have been used to stop the uproar that lead to the fall of the Berlin wall. Is that just the craziest thing you’ve ever heard? Why would anyone in their right mind wish harm to others. I’ll go even further with that thought. I don’t believe that there is a justification in history for the harming of human life in the name of anything. That’s what animals and nature were put here for. (Take that you Green suckers!) Yeah. Ruin nature and the animals first. Yes! Burn it all to hell…

Anywho. I’m in the early stages of developing something like a theory regarding failure. It goes something like this. (Please, all derogatory comments about this should be emailed to the publisher of this site. As author of this, I’m just a puppet – albeit a relatively free one with too much babble time on my hands.)

Failure is something I like to refer to as a mirror-shadow. As a mirror you can’t use it to blow-dry your hair. As a shadow you can’t use it to hide behind. Instead it is something that enables you to turn away from reality. It’s like an ersatz consciousness. As you progress through the dumbing down of modern education, you become one with your mirror-shadow. In adulthood society becomes the beautiful frame in which you carry your mirror-shadow. The mirror-shadow becomes such the/a perfect version of who you are intended to be that most can never break free of its luster. The mirror-shadow makes Narcissus seem like a silly little toddler who loves the discotheque and too much ecstasy.

Yeah, stick that tomorrow morning in front of you while you shave or do your hair.

In the plays I’ve read so far Mr. Hacks reflects a great deal on his belief in something. Very subtle usage of innuendo and metaphor seem to be his tricks in selling something. In my opinion, only great writers can pull off such trickery. But I’ve yet to read a writer that can pull it off like Hacks.

Rant on.

-tgs-

The Thing I Really Want To Know Is, Who Should Play Eve

How much of the Bible have you read? I mean truly read? Most non-(worst)writing-mortals sit down with a Bible at least once or thrice in life and later say: I’ve read the Bible. Hypocrisy aside, let me be clear here: I’ve not only read the Bible but it’s so much a part of my life that if – goodness forbid – you were to actually visit me without much prior knowledge of who/what I am, you might quickly put one and three together and assume that my American accent, along with living in Germany, would equate with some kind of clandestine evangelical plan to rid pagan Germania of the confusion that is both sides of the Rhine River.

You’ll really be confused when you see that I’ve got a few copies of the Koran and the Torah, as well.

FYI, I have numerous copies of the Bible strategically positioned around my apartment. These are all usually copies that I’ve received from priests, nuns or other clergy who have thrown me out of their churches.
“Here, go read it!” they would say/yell.
“How dare you! That’s blasphemous,” others would say.

Almost all the copies of Bibles around my apartment have the stamp “Do Not Remove”. Obviously, in more ways than one, I am unable to control myself when it comes to authority. Not unlike the Beamten (civil servants) at the Ausländeramt (where I get my German visa), all the clergy from Münster to Heidelberg know me – and like the Germans, they don’t like me. I am the foreign Nervensäge (pain in the ass) who questions both Biblical authority and the ignorance that is the pseudo-Kommunist Federal Republic.

Digression. Part 1.

Did you know that twenty to thirty year old Bible paper is great for cleaning? It’s both sturdy AND absorbent. It comes in perfectly sized pieces and was from a manufacturing era that could care less about fucking trees. It’s perfect window cleaning stuff, too. If needed it even makes good nose tissue. But you have to crumple the pages a bit in advance to work out the rough edges. I’m sure that most Kommunists are very familiar with this as they did the same thing with newspaper for most of their pitiful lives.

With Bible paper you can either use a page to blow your nose or, along with some Aldi-Glas-Reiniger, you can use it to perfectly clean the windows of your car. Seriously – no streaks. I don’t know what the secret is, but I’ve certainly wasted a few nights on the subject of other uses of Bible paper. There are so many practical household uses of Bible paper – the most printed book in history – that I even wondered if there was a way I could get rich on it.

Please. No emails about how you want to join in making millions.

One night after spilling a bottle of wonderful Chianti Reserve I also learned that Bible paper can save your expensive Persian carpet. You see, while contemplating the meaning of it all, trying to find answers in one of the newest Bibles added to my collection – after being thrown out of a really big and fancy church in Cologne – I ripped out pages of Genesis and laid them on top of my soiled Persian rug. There was no particular order to the pages, I just ripped them out – perhaps motivated by Beethoven or Brahms blaring from the stereo – and randomly placed them, albeit perfectly aligned, on top of the carpet. As the pages soaked up the wine, I then tried to kill two birds with one stone and grabbed my telescope and used the lens of Copernicus to find answers in the pages below. After an hour or so of searching, clumsily, I ended up spilling more wine.

Old Bible paper can save you.

It must be the mix of aged paper, aged ink and forever young hypocrisy in the pages of Bibles that somehow makes the windows of your car clearer, the shine of your Persian rug shinier and – believe it or not – your nose so clean that, along with a good diet… I haven’t had a head cold since I started using crumpled-up old Bible paper – and not just on my nose.

Digression. Part 2. Did I mention my fixation with knowledge AND telescopes?

Peter Hacks’ play “Adam and Eve – A Comedy in Three Acts and a Prelude” reminded me of the days when I had a telescope and thought a lot about the meaning of it all. (The telescope has since been confiscated by German authorities; I guess one of my neighbors complained.) I enjoy it when authors regurgitate things Biblical. There is so much literary fun reading/studying the Bible that, at times, I’m actually considering breaking that German court-order and buying me a new telescope. How dare the Germans assume that I was using the device to peak at the sexual antics of others. I was using it to search out, from great distances – not unlike Peter Hacks? – the tiny little secrets that are embedded in (human) dogma. What’s so wrong about that? Is it my fault that so many “neighbors” have bibles near their beds? The judge laughed until I let her know about my theory that The Fall of Man had nothing to do with “temptation”.

Enter Peter Hacks. He’s the Biblical interpreter that Tommi-(Worst)Writer will never be.

Here is where Mr. Hacks shines with this cute little play. Not only did he beat me to it, to say the least, his telescope was/is much better than mine. He saw through the lie that was labeled temptation that caused the infringement on the Tree of Knowledge – as initialized in Genesis 2:16. Mr. Hacks quite convincingly shows, by searching deep into the universe-like space of Biblical and/or historical texts, that it could have been something quite different that has lead Mankind thus far down this dusty road of…

It was Manipulation!

Not temptation but instead manipulation by God and His worker-bee Angels was the real cause of Man’s Fall – if you believe in that sort of thing. Quite a fitting premise, I would think, for an author stuck under the ignorance of Godless and brainless Honecker goons. Yes. The Fall of man was about Godly manipulation – and nothing more. They only used temptation all this time because that was/is much easier to understand, to grasp, to digest along with Bratwurst, curry sauce and the fact that the working classes of Germany (Adams and Eves) are being tempted – and have long since bit the apple of social market economic ignorance. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet how can one explain the manipulation behind all the useless, compulsive labor that Germans today call “Arbeit”? (Work?) Hacks knew the answer – and not because he was viewing it all from the East.

Digression. Part 3. Who cares? I just want to see Eve on stage.

I don’t want to interpret this play. It’s too basic. On the other hand, I can’t wait to someday see this play on a stage. Even if you’re not into Biblical (or political) interpretation this play might still appeal. For one, the actors playing Adam and Eve have to be butt naked up till the end of the play when they finally get them fig leaves. And that, along with my telescope, is what I’m thinking about now instead of just interpreting it. So in case your interested, here my picks of who should play Eve:

– My first choice would be that Feldbusch tussy that married the prick who inherited too much money and has since lost most of it because he’s a dipshit. Of course, Feldbusch would be better if they could get her before she had a kid. Plus, since Eve doesn’t have many lines in the play, comparatively speaking, we won’t have to listen to her dipshit voice. I hate her and her voice – but she is my type.
– Or how about Barbara Schöneberger? If that ain’t a pony I’d like to have a go with – even if it means only watching her butt naked on stage. All them German parts of hers moving around… But she gets the role only after she loses a few pounds. She could even sing a few of Eve’s lines – I’ve heard that Barbara likes to sing. And the way she moved on that couch when she hosted that dipshit interview show on TV…
– Then there’s Veronica Ferres. She could actually be given a speaking role in this play. To have her once again stretch that hot Germanic body like she did on the big screen in Schtonk… Yeah.Veronica. Let me be your Ferres-wheel.

Because I’m (un)comfortably heterosexual, I don’t give a hoot who they pick for Adam.

Back to Hacks. I guess.

The thing about reading Peter Hacks’ “Adam and Eve”, beyond the fact that it’s written in some weird kind of non-rhyming German verse (because God, according to Hacks, doesn’t like things that rhyme), is that Hacks’ does a great job interpreting but a bad job executing. Was he hung up on something when he wrote it? Was this play commissioned by some Kommunist thug? I mean, what’s the point of re-writing a story that almost everyone, to a certain level, already knows? The only thing I can come up with is the butt naked thing. Seriously. Hacks was a pervert. He had the hots for some Kommunist bimbo who wouldn’t put-out and so he wrote her a play where at least he could see her naked. No? Don’t like that theory? I know, all Kommunist bimbos put-out.

Does the thing with Gabriel hurt or work?

Still, of the plays I’ve read thus far by Hacks this one goes in the column under mediocre. So much could be done with the idea that it wasn’t (really) Adam & Eve’s fault. Yet all Hacks delivers is a free interpretation of Genesis 2 and 3, probably coercively influenced by anti-capitalist ideology. (Isn’t that what all Kommunists wrote about?) Interestingly enough, Hacks adds the Archangel Gabriel to the story, which reminds me of Paradise Lost – as that too has Gabriel as part of the beginning of man. Gabriel is not in Genesis – at least there’s no mention of him during the time of Adam and Eve. But I guess that doesn’t matter. Hacks needed a third “being” to fill any gaps there might be between God and Satan. Gabriel brings a cute little touch to the play as the three heavenly beings are almost like goofy CEO, COO and CFO of a major corporation that is on the verge of… (Ooops. I guess that would be part of my interpretation if I were given the task of directing this play. Hint. Hint.)

Can this play be called a comedy?

If this is supposed to be in anyway, shape or form a comedy, I didn’t get it. Could that be because of the old adage that Germans simply are not funny? At least there a few funny lines here and there in the play – but not enough to save it nor give one cause to call it a comedy. For example, here are parts of the text that I marked with “ha, ha, ha”:

(The following are Tommi’s free translations of the text. I do not follow the German rhythm that Hacks uses – and that’s probably due to the fact that I don’t understand that rhythm. But hey, this is dramatic literature, understanding is neither here nor there.)

Adam and Eve are arguing like a good couple should.
Eve (nonchalant): Adam. You have another rib.
Adam (frustrated manhood): What?
Eve: Ask God. He’ll make you another.
Adam (the first big baby): But I don’t want another. You’re my woman.

Eve is being manipulated by Satan.
Satan (coquettishly): I’m looking at the apple, that’s all.
Eve: That one, the one that’s not good to eat?
Satan: That one, the one that’s good to look at.
Eve: How does it look?
Satan: As though it was good to eat.

Gabriel is questioning why/how God made the earth.
Gabriel: Sir, your work is wonderful, but did you have to…
God: Yes?
Gabriel: Of all things…
God: What?
Gabriel: Work with material?
God (to audience): That is the degree that man comprehends. Oh, workers, never hire heavenly bodies …
Exit Gabriel. God then proceeds with a long monologue. At the end of the monologue he again faces the audience.
God (to audience): I hope you understand by now why you hold God’s majesty so high. You have to listen to his monologues.

Boy, as a director I would have a field day with that kind of text – especially if the main characters were butt naked! So much for wishful thinking.

There are a few other funny lines in the play but all they really did was remind me of what I consider to be funny Biblical (or at least Biblically related) text. An example of what I mean you can find on the Interwebnets. Or see link to vid below.

Even if I don’t really like this play, I admire someone like Hacks for attacking it, churning it, perhaps chewing it and yet leaving the original story intact. That’s quite an achievement for a man/writer who subjected himself to so much non-belief. As I (think I) said in a previous post in this forum, the thing that finally killed Soviet Kommunism wasn’t just the fact that it was bankrupt. What killed it was the fact that there was nothing (NOTHING!) to believe in.

At least with this play all the Kommunists got a chance to see a butt naked Eve. That would even be good enough for this capitalist pig.

(The link is an external link. If the link doesn’t work then go to any Internet video source and search for “The Devil’s Advocate John Milton’s speech”.)

Rant on.

-tgs-

Singing Hacks In NYC. Or Something Like That

Can a poem be inspirational?

The inspiration addressed here is not what you think. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed to even write this down. And that’s not because I don’t actually care much for poetry. I mean, I like things that are poetic but “poems”…? My adversity to poetry has something to do with it having been forced down my throat by silly college professors whose only interest was tenure – or Marie Anne Willingness, the college-attending Hooters girl that never missed a class of Eng 101. The catalyst in my hate of poetry was the study of the poem The Red Wheelbarrow, by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963). Do any Germans out there know this poem? No? Since I was only “matriculated” (we in the States use easier words like “registered”) at a German University for about a year I can make no claim to knowing anything about what it is you Germans actually study when it comes to Anglistic. So I’ll just assume here for posterity’s sake that at least one or two Germans know this poem. Or am I way off base here? No matter. The poem that turned me off to poetry went something like this:

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens

Be assured. There are so many U.S. college papers falsely written about this poem that if the clock could be turned back and the trees replaced I’m sure that the likes of Jürgen (kiss my ass) Trittin would celebrate on account his dimwit Greens would have one less thing to blame for the lie that is “global warming”. And maybe then I might even get to drink cola out of can again.

Having said that, will Hacks’ poetry (for me) rise above the rest? At the least I can say this: Unlike Williams’ poem, one of Peter Hacks’ poems was recently sung by a bunch of drunk New Yorkers – in German.

Since that’s such a hard thing to picture, let me put this whole thing about poetry another way…

Krapp.

I manage every once a once to read a poem. Due to my commitment to Hacks, though, I think that after my recent vacation I have easily met my yearly quota of poetry for 2008, 2009 and perhaps 2010. Luckily it was a krapp vacation – and krapp is a great way to pass the time.

Yes. My vacation was krapp. It all started with the hinflug (departure) and nasty German Lufthansa employees who think that service is spelled with a ‘K’ – you know, as in Kommunism. After fighting and cursing with LH check-in counter idiots at Frankfurt, we finally got our Mile & More tickets. Steaming and sweaty and hating the German corporate world that just barely copies and betters the American corporate world… We boarded that flight hoping that there weren’t too many spiteful LH employees that would radio their colleagues abroad to tell them to make our return flight just as difficult. (And do you think that one LH arrogant employee misfit warned us about the impending strike? Of course we knew about it via the news but that’s not the point. These morons should stand up for the silly little games they play in a world of diminishing returns and unspoken population control. Of course, we did eventually get on the plane. Like Germany itself, there was plenty of beer and wine, no elbow room and each seat had its own video monitor. So much technology and industrial prowess and so little to show for it. Yeah, let’s all watch TV on our flights to Neverland – the country that has annexed us all.)

I won’t bore you with the details of my vacation. Let’s just leave it to the fact that I am a partner in a relationship. I live with a German who has a career. Said German wanted to go shopping (in NYC) so, since I don’t (really) have a “career”, and since I’ve been delegated to expatriation because of a few bad choices when I was young, I’m something like a (worst)writing luggage career. Life would/could be good as a luggage carrier if it weren’t for bad-mood, sour-puss Germans working for Lufthansa. Yes. They even made our return flight krappy!

Anyway. Traveling across the Atlantic on a Lufthansa 747 that was on “strike” is not a good beginning or end to a krapp vacation. Seriously. I mean everything about this vacation was krapp. Visiting my friends was krapp, visiting my parents was krapp, and the visit to my sister was even more krapp. The whole idea about this short and intense visit across the Atlantic also included a bit of free-time and relaxation for my partner. But my partner was totally stressed out because, well, everything was krapp. And since all of that was krapp let’s just end it all with a flight home to a place that is full of a bunch of krappy pseudo-Kommunists with sour-puss faces and too much Green politicking – who all think that, along with state-sponsored vacations, strikes are a fucking birthright.

Oh yeah. The Poetry.

Yet, not all was lost. While a bunch of sour-puss German stewardesses and stewards spitefully served non-LH catered food, I was able to get in some good reading on the plane. As the deteriorating flight service corresponded perfectly with the rise and fall of our altitude, I thought to myself: I kind of like Hacks’ poetry. It reminds me of something between Bukowski’s work and the worn-out leather shoes a convicted rapist uncle of mine gave me when my German mother’s third mistaken husband took me to a West Virginia jail to meet his brother. So I read and read and allowed the multi-culti striking Kommunist crew of LH403 fill my tummy with red wine. (At least they’re good for something, eh? I think it was a French Merlot.) Then I enjoyed the vegetarian Italian noodles that the crew apologetically said were made in the USA and were left over from the previous flight. (The best “strike” noodles I’ve ever had!) After all the trash was finally collected I continued reading from the books that – thank Allah! – US airport authorities haven’t decided to forbid for carry-on. My reading agenda for the flight was a book about the origin of earthly hydrocarbons in the context of geopolitical power mongering and Peter Hacks’ pocket-sized book of poems: “Diesem Vaterland Nicht Meine Knochen”.

And so… I discovered the poem: “Couplets Der Verdammten Könige”.

But…

I had to ask my German Abitur educated partner sitting next to me on LH403: what the fuck does “Couplets” mean? I hate it when I come across German words I don’t know and there’s no Duden around. (Usually these kind of words aren’t originally German.) I guess that’s why I have a partner with an Abitur (and an MBA)! Seriously, a German partner with Abitur is easier to carry on a flight than one of them thick, yellow Duden books.

Don’t get me wrong. Even with all my bitchin’ & moanin’ about Germany, I like reading German. In fact, I can’t get enough of it. I think it’s almost fun. It’s especially fun when I’m in my home country and people think it’s part of their good-citizen duty to question other people reading something in a foreign language. Seriously. Would you believe that there are signs around NYC telling people to “Be on the look-out”. But the signs don’t really tell people what to be on the look-out for. So I guess we all have to just guess.

Anyway. Here’s a transcript of me conversing with someone while visiting New York City and reading Peter Hacks’ poetry:

Scene: sitting outside of a New York City bar in cheap wannabe garden chairs. It’s a hot July afternoon and we just finished shopping after discovering that you can almost get stuff for free because most NYC retailers get a kick out of people toting Euros. (The exchange rate hit €1 = $1.57!!!) I am sitting with partner who is checking Blackberry. I’m reading from a small red book with bright yellow letters on the cover. New York Person, probably a Wall Street broker, sits down at the table next to me and after a pause questions what I’m reading because he’s on the look out for terrorists and/or sex.

New York Person: “… So, you think German is a fun language, uh? You’d better be careful. Sounds kind of Arabic.”
Me Person: “Really?”
New York Person: “Didn’t some of those 9/11 guys come from Germany?”
Me Person: “No, they came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But just like me, they were able to matriculate in a German university.”
New York Person: “Ma-trick-you… what?”
Me Person: “Sorry. That’s just another way of saying that one is enrolled as a student at a University.”
New York Person: “Oh. You know, you sound like an American.”
Me Person: “That’s because I am one.”
New York Person: “Then why are you reading Arabic?”
Me Person: “I’m reading German, sir.”
New York Person: “Say. Didn’t we kick Germany’s ass twice in a war or something?”
Me Person: “Indeed, we did. And ever since we haven’t quite figured out what do with all the oil that we won.”

I ended up reading Couplets Der Verdammten Könige out loud to this guy. Eventually a couple of his broker friends, all in fancy suits, joined in and they all bought me and my partner more alcohol – to prove that their dollars were actually worth something – and perhaps with the hopes that I would invite them to Oktoberfest. When I explained what the poem was about – and the fact that it was actually a “song” they got excited and wanted to sing it. So we did. They all churned up what remained from Germ101 at college and off we went. Really. It was the best part of the whole vacation. It almost made me (us) forget about the upcoming return flight on Kommunist serviced Lufthansa.

Rant on.

Tommi