THE THEFT OF THE BUCKET OF GOLD. I have posted over the past ten years on various crime stories, including the theft of the gold bathtub and the theft of a seven story building, both of which I reported on here.
This crime has gotten a lot of attention on the internet, I suppose because the odds against its success seem so high. This is one of a number of videos of the crime, which was captured by security cameras.
The crime took place at around 4:30 in the afternoon on 48th Street between Fifth and Sixth, a crowded midtown block. There were two guards assigned to the armored truck from which the bucket of gold flakes weighing 86 pounds and worth about $1.6 million was stolen. The criminal takes the bucket from the open back door of the truck. It is heavy enough that he is said to “waddle” as he carries it. He has to put it down to rest at one point and the man’s entire trip, usually considered to be about a 10-minute walk, took an hour.
FLYTING. The kind of bragging that Trump uses has received its own term from linguists. Jeet Heer quotes Father Ong: “Standard in oral societies across the world, reciprocal name-calling has been fitted with a specific name in linguistics: flyting (or fliting).”
Heer gives examples of flyting. David says to Goliath: “I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals…” Heer comments: “Or to translate it into the language of Donald Trump: Goliath is a total loser.”
“DONALD TRUMP, EPIC HERO”. A week after Elspeth Reeves’s New Republic article about Trump and wrestling, Jeet Heer posted an article entitled “Donald Trump, Epic Hero” on the New Republic site. Heer compared Trump’s rhetoric to that used by Achilles in the Iliad, by characters in Bowulf, and by David, the slayer of Goliath.
Today, we have expected our heroes to be sportsmanlike and modest in victory. (“Trashtalking” has increased recently, but it is still less common than modesty.)
In contrast, says Heer: “When he’s not hurling invective at others, Trump can be heard preening on his own greatness, exulting over his intelligence, his wealth, and his way with women.”
Heer quotes from Father Walter Ong’s ORALITY AND LITERACY : “Bragging about one’s own prowess and/or verbal tongue-lashings of an opponent figure regularly in encounters between characters in narrative: in the Iliad, in Beowulf, throughout medieval European romance,…in the Bible, as between David and Goliath ….”
THE CULTURAL DIVIDE ON PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING. It turns out that there have been a lot of analyses of the “heel” role that Donald Trump played in the campaign, as a Google search shows. Many of these analyses seem to be on wrestling sites. Until after the election, I had not encountered the theory that Trump was playing a well-established role (much as there are stock characters in commedia dell’ arte). The lack of media awareness of the role playing is a mark of the cultural divisions in the country. Many people “get” the ironies of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but did not “get” Trump’s references to a form of popular entertainment that has a large national audience.
HOW TRUMP PLAYED “THE HEEL”. Reeves quotes the wikipedia entry which describes the “heel” role: “…heels are often portrayed as behaving in an immoral manner by breaking rules… Others… exhibit unlikeable, appalling and deliberately offensive and demoralizing personality traits such as arrogance, cowardice, or contempt for the audience.” Reeve says that this is “a perfect description of the Trump phenomenon”.
Reeves shows how Trump seized the opportunity with the second question at the first debate to be unlikeable, appalling and deliberately offensive by saying rude things about women and criticizing “political correctness”. Reeves shows how the audience reacted strongly to each low blow on Trump’s part.
Kelly also recounts Trump’s longstanding affiliation with professional wrestling, including, for example, the time that he once challenged WWE owner Vince McMahon to wrestle. When McMahon refused, they agreed to have “peasants” wrestle for them. Many of Trump’s lines had been tested not by focus groups but by live audiences.
HOW THE MEDIA PLAYED THE FOIL TO TRUMP’S “HEEL” CHARACTER. This article by Elspeth Reeve on the New Republic site in August, 2015 (after the first Republican Presidential debate) shows how the media—and I— misunderstood what role Trump was playing. As described by Reeve, the first question at the debate was “perfectly crafted for Donald Trump. Moderator Bret Baier asked the candidates if anyone would raise their hand if they would not pledge to support the GOP nominee, whoever it may be, and not run as an independent candidate. The debate audience was like, Ooooh shit just got real. Trump raised his hand. Huge boos.”
I think that the moderator’s first question was intended to be a “tough’ question, to make each candidate make a commitment for the future or to use conditional language that would make the candidate look bad. Instead it was, for Trump, a perfect opportunity to stake out the character he was going to play—“the heel”.
The “heel” character is well established in professional wrestling. (The good guy in wrestling is known as “the face”.)
IS THERE DARK MATTER? Without, of course, understanding the science, I have marveled before, including in the first post on this blog, about how much scientists know about the Big Bang—despite the difficulties in obtaining evidence about events so distant in time and space. This article by Paul Kroupa on the Aeon website raises questions about much that is thought to be known about the universe. It begins: “According to mainstream researchers, the vast majority of the matter in the Universe is invisible: it consists of dark-matter particles that do not interact with radiation and cannot be seen through any telescope. The case for dark matter is regarded as so overwhelming that its existence is often reported as fact.”
Kroupa then questions whether dark matter and dark particles exist. He says that dark matter has not yet been found: “In July, the LUX experiment in South Dakota came up empty in its search for dark particles – the latest failure in a planet-wide, decades-long effort to find them.”
Kroupa says that the issues presented if dark matter does not exist are huge: “Acceptance of dark matter has influenced scientific thinking about the birth of the Universe, the evolution of galaxies and black holes, and the fundamental laws of physics.” As an example, Kroupa says that: “The first step is that we need to revisit the validity of Newton’s universal law of gravitation.”
SOME RHYMING FLOURISHES IN HAMILTON. Eastwood and Hinton point out Hamilton’s use of multisyllabic rhymes, which they characterize as “one of rapper Rakim’s signature sounds”. Here is the example from Hamilton that they give:
“Now for a strong central democracy If not, then I’ll be Socrates
Throwing verbal rocks at these mediocrities.”
In addition to all the influences from rap musicians, Eastwood and Hinton point out an excerpt from Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance:
“I am the very model of a modern Major General
I’ve information vegetable animal and mineral
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical”
“Now I’m the model of a modern major general
The venerated Virginian veteran whose men are all
Lining up to put me up on a pedestal.”
THE INFLUENCE OF RAP ON BROADWAY MUSICALS. Rap over a period of years has educated an audience for the complexities of Hamilton. This article from 2013 (before Hamilton opened) by Jaime Weinman in Maclean’s reported on critics and lyricists who had observed—and for the most part deplored—that rap and hip-hop had influenced audiences and lyricists to accept off rhymes. Sondheim was quoted: “two generations of listeners brought up on pop and rock songs have gotten so accustomed to approximate rhyming that they neither care nor notice if the rhymes are perfect.” By the same token, rap has trained an audience that can take in the complex rhyme schemes which support the complex exposition and arguments of Hamilton. An audience that “can take more in”, to use Sondheim’s phrase.
Influence runs both ways.Hamilton’s success has influenced rap as well by demonstrating its range and power. John Jurgensen in the Wall Street Journal (November 30) quotes Tariq Trotter, also known as “Black Thought” and co-founder of Roots. Trotter was reluctant to see an off-Broadway performance of Hamilton because: “I did not want to be stuck in a room where people were going to be rapping conversations.” After experiencing what rap could do in the theater, Trotter and the Roots drummer Ahmir Thompson, known as Questlove, joined the executive producers of Hamilton.
AN ABUNDANCE OF INTERNAL RHYMES. The frequent use of off rhymes differentiates rap and hip-hop from traditional Broadway lyrics, which avoided off rhyme and insisted on perfect rhyme. One reason that off rhymes are used so much in rap is that there are so many internal rhymes. Eastwood and Hinton point out that: “Mr. Miranda cops rapper Big Pun’s characteristic thick rhyme patterns, in which one or two sounds are repeated over and over again.” Note the four internal rhymes in the passage I have been quoting——SCOTSman, DROPPED in, forGOTTen, SPOT—four internal off rhymes and a perfect rhyme in five lines.
It is hard to imagine lines of verse with multiple perfect rhymes for two reasons. First, the rhymes would create a jingly effect. Second, to quote Sondheim in his NPR interview with Jeffery Brown: “If the lyric is too packed, then the ear, the audience’s ear, can’t take everything in. It’s like an over-egged cake.It just is too rich.”
Off rhymes permit multiple internal rhymes.