Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Dots to Connect

There was some alchemy for me in yesterday's essay in which, almost as quickly as my fingers could move over the keyboard, I saw a connection between Groucho Marx's primary persona, Captain Geoffrey T. Spaulding, the noted African explorer (The T. stands for Edgar, by the way.) and Joseph Campbell. Groucho became and remained Captain Spaulding, starting with the vaudeville play, Animal Crackers, then nailing the imagery down in the film (which still holds up!). The song that went with the vaudville version, "Hooray for Captain Spaulding/The African explorer/Did someone call me a schnorrer?/ Hooray Hooray Hooray/"

Groucho was also Rufus Firefly in Duck Soup, but the similarity between Spaulding and Firefly were readily apparent, each was a humbug, each was always on, each was a relentless commentator on whatever topic came up. If the gangster was one facet of the American icon, Captain Spaulding was another. Thirty years after his death as Groucho, the slouching, irreverent humbug remains firmly in place as an archetype.

And so, too, does another individual transcend time and place to enter the truer, greater Mount Rushmore of American icons. Who among us can claim to have been unmoved, untransformed and untransported by the tantrums of Donald Duck?

Groucho is so surreal, thanks in some measure to the exaggerated mustache and eyebrows, that he becomes real. Donald Duck sets forth in fine fettle and we wait patiently to see him reduced to the fine fury of his explosion. Aristotle understood some of this in his Poetics, and every great humorist understands the dramatic.

Outside of a dog, Groucho says, man is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it is too dark to read.

What Donald Duck says is pure, inchoate rage, beyond reason. And yet Donald has not a whit of meanspiritedness.

Joseph Campbell was a professor of mythology at Sarah Lawrence College. Honors and degrees were conferred on him. He in turn conferred status and meaning on our collective dream life, the terrain of our inner symbols, intentions, and meanings. He kicked the Hero out of the house, then tracked him on his journey.

He did not get around to such icons as Groucho and Donald, he did not try to define the racial and ethnic terrain of the Marx Brothers, of Groucho and Signor Ravelli, or Chico.

Maybe that has come to me. I am thinking these dots being connected lead to a MFA, and what am I going to do with an MFA? Teach? (Which reminds me that the new semester began today.)

It will be interesting to follow the energy on these dots glowing much like the stars in the western sky, glimpsed atop Deer Creek, just over the L.A. County line and ito Ventura County on my way home from the university. Big, luminous full moon, so bright it seemed to be wanting to shake out of itself. Stars, seeming to call out, Look at me! Look!

The Hero's Journey.

Hey, Ravelli! You gotta something for me? I gotta something for you.


Lori Witzel said...

A quick drive-by while taking a moment's respite at work.

There's a whole lot related to this glowing thread you could delve in the mystical tradition of the Holy Fool, the Trickster, and the Fool's Journey (as tightly encoded in Tarot card imagery.)

May have to take some of this off-blogosphere...if you want, email is
lwitzel [at] austin [dot] rr [dot] com...meanwhile:

"Why a duck?"
(Ah, the word verification is i-i-yah -- a fitting comment on this comment!)

Anonymous said...

Shelly - so wonderful...
Tricksters, all...
Why has my memory so cleanly and quickly jumped to Jack Benny? Just remembering his response to "Your money or your life - " has me grinning.
- Karen

John Eaton said...

Deep in December, it's nice to September, and follow, follow, follow.

Tunes and tastings all around, Shelly.

Pecans on the way,

John :)